PARLIAMENT’S Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has vowed to challenge Speaker Jacob Mudenda’s gag order on parliamentary investigations of individuals and entities exposed in Al Jazeera’s Gold Mafia documentary over alleged gold smuggling and money laundering activities.
All the individuals who were implicated in the exposé are connected to President Emmerson Mnangagwa one way or another.
PAC had requested Mudenda to authorise it to investigate Al Jazeera’s revelations just as it has done on several other cases of corruption.
However, in a statement addressed to chairpersons of the Public Accounts Committee and Budget, Finance and Economic Development, Brian Dube and Mathew Nyashanu, respectively, Mudenda ordered the two panels to leave the investigations to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the police.
Mudenda said in reaching his decision he was guided by the stance taken by the South African government which has similarly deferred a probe into its citizens implicated in the Al Jazeera documentary to specialised agencies.
In an interview with The NewsHawks, PAC deputy chairperson Edwin Mushoriwa said the committee will not accept Mudenda’s gag order without a fight. He said the order violated the principle of oversight which empowers Parliament to scrutinise public matters in the national interest.
“PAC resolved that the chairman formally writes a letter to the Speaker expressing our discomfort in the directive and that we will not as Parliament be silenced on our key oversight responsibility,” said the Dzivaresekwa MP.
Mushoriwa further revealed that PAC had arranged to commence its hearings this week. PAC wants to meet people implicated in the documentary as well as leaders of entities exposed for aiding gold smuggling and money laundering.
He revealed that letters summoning the individuals and entities to appear before PAC were dispatched before Mudenda’s gag order.
“We were supposed to start hearings on Thursday (yesterday) and we had summoned RBZ, ministry of Finance, Fidelity Printers, Caaz (Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe), ministry of Mines, plus all individuals mentioned in the Al Jazeera documentary. Sadly, the Speaker has stopped us,” he said.
In his infamous gag order letter, Mudenda wrote: “I wish to state from the outset that the matter is serious and of national importance. However, it is pertinent to note that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and the RBZ have already started processes to investigate the matter.
“In that vein, it would be improper for Parliament to embark on an inquiry on a matter that other arms of the State are investigating.”
He also claimed that the revelations in the Al Jazeera documentary were of a complex nature and may require extraterritorial visits due to the alleged involvement of foreign players.
“In that regard, it is prudent to leave the investigations to specialised agencies like Zacc, and the Police are better placed to investigate matters.
“Parliament will continue to monitor the investigations and will carry out its oversight role when the specialised agencies have completed their investigation.
“In addition, the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development conducted an inquiry into Illicit Financial flows in the Mining Sector in the course of last year,” he added.
There has already been public outrage over the revelations of the Qatar-based international news network.
The four-part documentary titled Gold Mafia was filmed by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit), based on discreet undercover investigations by its reporters spanning three continents and dozens of classified documents.
It exposed how huge amounts of gold are smuggled from Zimbabwe, Africa’s sixth-largest gold producer, to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, aiding money laundering through an intricate web of shell companies, fake invoices and paid-off officials.
Uebert Angel, Presidential Envoy and Ambassador-At-Large to Europe and the Americas since March 2021, was secretly filmed bragging that he could move US$1.2billion easily using his diplomatic bag.
Other individuals filmed or named in the documentary include Mnanngagwa’s niece and Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya as well as Kamlesh Pattni, a businessman previously involved in a gold smuggling scandal in Kenya.
Ewan MacMillan, another Mnangagwa associate, also appeared in the documentary saying he smuggles 200 kilogrammes of gold a month with Mnangagwa’s protection.
President Mnangagwa’s wife Auxilia was phoned by Angel to discuss whether the First Family’s aeroplane would be used to bring in the US$1.2 billion. Auxillia referred Angel to the President.
The RBZ has already shown its unwillingness to investigate the culprits after it unfroze accounts of the gold mafia after freezing them last month over revelations of money laundering exposed in the documentary.