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Long on allegations, short on evidence, yet zilch proof: A critical review of Al Jazeera’s Gold Mafia documentary




APRIL, famously characterised as “the cruellest month” by distinguished poet and literary critic TS Eliot in his critically acclaimed essay “The Wasteland” — not because its first day celebrates fools but due to its sad northern hemispheric association with high suicide rates and severe depression — was this year a month of great depression for different business interlocutors and Zimbabwean VVIPs, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who were implicated in the much-hyped Al Jazeera documentary, The Gold Mafia.

The documentary, which sought to investigate gold smuggling, money laundering and corruption, had four film episodes, six podcasts and one long narrative.

Essentially, Al Jazeera’s Gold Mafia documentary boils down to a useful and gripping yet untested story of high-level corruption, gold smuggling and money laundering in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Dubai which is long on allegations, short on evidence with zero proof.

The investigation brought to light some goings-on in the underworld regarding gold trade and money laundering in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Dubai, as well as associated illicit financial flows and a conspiracy to commit financial crimes.

It was a brave attempt to tell a revealing story, notwithstanding the verification and ethical questions which it struggled with and ultimately failed to address as will be shown later.

The documentary also showed us some of the main characters involved in the shady deals and their connections with ruling authorities. The previously unknown nexus between business, politics and crime was highlighted in spell-binding ways.

In that regard, Al Jazeera did well to investigate one of the most critical issues in Zimbabwe in recent times — that of illicit gold dealings involving smugging and money laundering — but sadly it eventually failed on its promise to expose and prove the corruption, gold smuggling, and money laundering.

In the end, Al Jazeera journalists simply dipped into a box labelled “half-truths and innuendo” which they then packaged as a ground-breaking investigation when it was merely a hypothesis with anecdotal evidence thrown around. That is the starting point of an investigation, not the conclusion.

The other critical stages — gathering facts, verifying them and establishing the truth before choosing a narrative and presentation style, for instance — were not meticulously followed by Al Jazeera beyond muddling through.

Al Jazeera failed to gather primary evidence of supreme value to substantiate its storyline or narrative. It only gathered secondary evidence is some cases. In research terms, it gathered primary, source or atomic data which was presented as evidence and proof without being processed into useful information.

Raw data, oftentimes referred to as source or primary data, is material that has not been processed, coded, formatted, or yet analysed for useful information. While being a valuable resource, which is what the Al Jazeera documentary is, raw data is incredibly hard to comprehend or act upon, as it is unverified, lacks cohesion and thus incoherent.

To make matter worse, Al Jazeera claimed to have thousands of documents, but it has not posted them on its platforms to back its investigation and allow the public to read and scrutinise the material like the Panama Papers, also known as the Mossack Fonseca Papers, the leak of 11.5 million files of leaked financial and attorney-client details covering 214 488 offshore entities from the world’s fourth-largest offshore law firm.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning global media project Panama Papers — which was data released in 2016 to a German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung providing details on how more than 120 politicians and officials around the world stashed money offshore by a whistle-blower using the pseudonym John Doe — on the surface did not show criminality, but upon verification and further investigations they proved that many shell companies mentioned were fronts for fraud, tax evasion, and sanctions busting.

From the Hutchinson Letters, The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, The Pentagon Papers, Watergate, The Plame Affair, The Downing Street Memo, Iraq war Logs (WikiLeaks), Edward Snowden Leaks, Paradise Papers to Panama Papers, transparency was key to ensuring public trust and confidence.

However, from the start, Al Jazeera was dodgy. It delayed the documentary without explanation and now it hasn’t published its purported stash of documents.

Al Jazeera fixed “sexed up” facts around the narrative, not the other way round.

This will be unpacked and demonstrated in detail down the line.

First, it is important to take a step back and start at the beginning before delving deeper into other issues.

Al Jazeera’s use of undercover methods — meaning subterfuge and systematic deception — as its documentary’s basis of the investigation was questionable.

The problem is that in its bid to extract information from the interlocutors, Al Jazeera ended up telling outright lies about who they were and induced some of the sources featured in the documentary to say all sorts of things with their eyes on the prize money.

The promise of huge sums of money as reward for money laundering and the deceptive willingness to pay “appreciative fees” to fix appointments for Al Jazeera undercover journalists for meetings with VVIPs provided an incentive for some of the actors to name-drop, exaggerate issues and even lie.

There is no doubt that across the world undercover investigations have produced extraordinary and impactful journalism, but there are always ethical concerns on how far journalists can go.

One of the key principles of journalism is that reporters must always be transparent, open and honest in information gathering,

but when they go undercover to gather details through deception those ethical requirements are compromised and even violated.

The crucial point is that investigative journalism that insists on gathering information through deception and invasion of privacy can have only one serious defence: a larger social purpose or the public interest.

Undercover investigations by journalists go back a long way. A classical case was in 1887 when the celebrated American reporter Nellie Bly feigned illness, got herself admitted to a notoriously ill-administered New York lunatic asylum, and wrote a powerful expose that hastened legal reforms relating to the treatment of the mentally ill.

Since then, undercover journalism has been the subject of heated discussions, especially in the late 1970s, hence stings like the Al Jazeera one can easily cause a stir.

With this backdrop in mind, this is how Al Jazeera summarised its story from the start in its main narrative:

“Zimbabwe’s government is using smuggling gangs to sell gold worth hundreds of millions of dollars, skirting some of the consequences of tough Western sanctions imposed on the country over human rights abuses, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) can reveal.

“The smuggling feeds into an enormous money-laundering operation, all facilitated by Fidelity Gold Refinery, a subsidiary of Zimbabwe’s central bank, and enabled, in some cases, directly by senior government officials and relatives of the country’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“Zimbabwe’s government needs United States dollars because the local currency has no value in international trade following sustained hyperinflation over many years. Gold — the country’s biggest export — is an effective way to earn dollars.

But although gold trade itself is not barred, the additional scrutiny sanctions bring on Zimbabwean officials smother the government’s ability to transact directly in the international financial system, especially in dollars, said Karen Greenaway, a former US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent who tracks illicit money flows. ‘So, you have to figure out other ways to do that,’ she told Al Jazeera.

“Meanwhile, global money launderers have undeclared cash they need to turn into legitimate money. Gold smugglers offer a way around these complications both for money launderers and the Zimbabwe government.”

The first thing here is that the news film says the government is using smuggling syndicates to skirt consequences of Western sanctions. It however goes on to acknowledge that gold trade is not under sanctions, thus weakening the tenuous narrative right way, upfront.

Yet there is no causal connection between gold smuggling, money laundering and sanctions in this case.

The second thing is that the documentary claims that those accused of smuggling were working in cahoots with government authorities and some state institutions, but there was no evidence of that in the documentary beyond insinuations and innuendoes.

No copper-bottomed evidence was provided, at all.

The third issue is that the film says the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) was being used as a “laundromat” by smugglers and money launderers. That serious allegation was just carelessly flighted, especially in Al Jazeera’s Press statement and trailer for the documentary, but not pursued at all throughout the documentary. There was not even an attempt to prove the allegation. It was thrown around just like a reckless smear, resulting in unjustified character assassination and gaslighting in the process.

Fourth, a number of other allegations were made; for instance, that President Emmerson Mnangagwa is paid homage and protection fees fortnightly by gold dealer Kamlesh Pattni. While it is Mnangagwa’s job to defend himself, from a journalistic point of view that serious claim was not verified and proved.

Fifth, another example; while some figures presented as “couriers” were seen in the documentary moving suspiciously through the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare purportedly smuggling gold and carrying money, audiences never really got to know what was actually in those bags which they were pulling.

This is not about poking holes in the documentary or defending anyone — there is no need to, but it is about journalistic competence, integrity and credibility with regards to the Al Jazeera investigation.

There are many other allegations in the documentary which were just not proven.

The fundamental problem is that Al Jazeera journalists did not verify allegations made by their interlocutors whom they recorded secretly, some of them under the inducement of money or even alcohol.

The undercover journalists simply regurgitated what they were told without verification to ensure that evidence and proof were ascertained to ultimately arrive at confirmed facts to establish the truth in the public interest.

Any serious investigative journalist anywhere in the world knows that without verification, there is no story. It is mere allegations. Facts and the truth can only be established through verification. The essence of the story is the verified content.

Put differently, verification is a scientific-like approach to getting the facts and also the right facts, and eventually the truth. While Al Jazeera did indeed provide some scanty facts here and there, it did not provide any evidence let alone proof to support either the allegations or the scanty facts. Evidence and proof are critical in investigative journalism; they are the lifeblood of the trade.

For example, it is a fact that some purported smugglers were seen dragging bags through the airport, but there was no evidence that they were smugglers in the first place and indeed there was no proof of what they were actually carrying inside those bags. The reporters made allegations which they should have necessarily gone on to prove but did not.

As journalists and media scholars always say, journalism itself is a discipline of verification. Assumption, as some would put it, is the mother of all media screw-ups.

Called the Discipline of Verification, this sort of in-depth journalism’s intellectual foundation rests on three core concepts — transparency, open- mindedness and originality.

This is the basic yet critical test which Al Jazeera’s Gold Mafia documentary failed dismally.

But to be fair, gold smuggling was a good subject of investigation, except that Al Jazeera did a shoddy job, empirically speaking. Where the allegations began and ended, assumptions took over. No wonder the documentary ultimately became a screw-up.

There is no doubt that the film was very entertaining. It was full of drama and theatrics. That is why it drew huge local and international audiences through a narrative which claimed that there is a “gold mafia” principally comprising the key interlocutors of Ewan MacMillan, Simon, Rudland Kamlesh Pattni and Alistair Mathias and a “diplomatic mafia” led by Ambassador Plenipotentiary Uebert Angels — described as a senior diplomat when he in fact is neither senior nor a diplomat, but a special presidential envoy  — operating in cahoots with his brother-in-law Rikki Doolan and Henrietta Rushwaya, a niece to Mnangagwa; allegedly involved in high-level corruption, gold smuggling and money laundering purportedly to evade Western economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, while supposedly making hundreds of millions of United States dollars to enrich their VVIP bosses and themselves through collusion with bribed officials at Fidelity Printers and Refineries, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.

For the avoidance of doubt, the investigation was necessary and worthwhile.

In many important ways, the Al Jazeera documentary was an historic and revealing eye-opener, which lifted the lid off a previously little-known yet corruption-ridden illicit trade of gold smuggling and money laundering by shining the spotlight on the dark enterprise to expose its kingpins, financiers, barons, field runners, smugglers, couriers, and their local and international networks. 

The key interlocutors in the documentary speak freely and informatively about themselves; their alleged close links to and relationships with Mnangagwa and the first family and other African Presidents past and present; how they operate to access gold, smuggle it out of Zimbabwe and market it in Dubai through money laundering.

In the process, the interlocutors reveal how they relate to and compete with one another as warlike rivals; that they have open access to high-level political connections; and that they are willing to commit financial crimes by, for example, engaging in corruption by taking money to fix appointments for criminal gangs that seek to clean their dirty money with high level politicians; that they are willing to smuggle gold and to launder money for people who introduce themselves as criminals; how they bribe government officials to enable their corrupt and illegal trade and that they do not do any due diligence on ‘businesspeople” who openly declare their money laundering intentions.

Although the first two episodes of the four-part documentary aired on 23 and 30 March respectively and the third on 6 April, it was the fourth episode screened on 14 April which was nervously awaited by the documentary’s interlocutors and the VVIPs they had implicated who had been in a state of panic and depression akin to the one unravelled in “The Wasteland” by TS Eliot, as they feared that the last episode would lay bare corroborated and thus incontrovertible proof of the sensational corruption, gold smuggling and money laundering allegations made in the first three episodes.

Alas, the fourth and last episode fell short and did not provide any proof of anything. Instead of testing the claims made by the “gold mafia” and the “diplomatic mafia” to independently and factually prove or disprove them as the basis of its documentary, Al Jazeera sought to induce the same mafia to make more untested and unverified claims.

In the end, a lot of things were allowed to be broadcast untested, as the claims and allegations made in the documentary were not verified. However, Al Jazeera had an ethical and professional duty to verify the allegations.

An otherwise useful documentary failed to test and prove what it set out to do in four episodes, supported by six podcasts that merely repeated the untested allegations of the documentary.

Yet the documentary’s allegations were clear, and serious. On 27 February 2023 ahead of the screening of the first episode which had initially been set for 2 March 2023 before it was rescheduled at the 11th hour to 23 March 2023, Al Jazeera released a Press statement, saying an investigation by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit had infiltrated “rival gangs that control Africa’s gold. Criminal networks turn dirty cash into gold, which is sold around the world. The investigation leads to the highest offices of state in southern Africa.”

Most serious was the allegation against the RBZ.

The 27 February 2023 Press statement alleged that “the rival crime bosses reveal that at the centre of their operations is southern Africa’s biggest laundromat, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The investigation reveals that the Gold Mafia are employed by Zimbabwe’s ruling elite to export gold on the government’s behalf. It is a scheme to bust international sanctions placed on political leaders and government entities.”

The allegation that the RBZ “is southern Africa’s biggest laundromat” was the most reckless, in fact the worst of all the allegations associated with the documentary, not least because it was made by Al Jazeera itself, with no supporting evidence, not even a claim by any of the interlocutors featured in the documentary, no episode and no podcast supported this scurrilous allegation. It was not verified because it is unverifiable unless there is evidence.

None of the four episodes of the documentary and its six podcasts implicated the RBZ itself or the governor (John Mangudya) or any official at the central bank proper. It is noteworthy that the sixth and final episode of the podcasts was very sensational, as it pointed fingers at Zimbabwe’s national leadership.

This was potentially explosive as it fed on the self-incriminating narratives of the name-dropping key interlocutors featured in the documentary.

Notably, Al Jazeera had invited interested media houses and NGOs to collaborate with it, and it had said it would put on its website some interesting material it did not use on the documentary, such as “thousands” of documents. But to date, Al Jazeera has not put any material of the sort on its website, and it does not look like it will put any.

A significant development which might have disrupted Al Jazeera’s plans beyond the documentary and its associated episodes, has been the litigation against Al Jazeera by the President of Ghana. Other implicated individuals have also taken the matter on legal advice.

Another development of some note since Al Jazeera’s release of its sixth and last podcast on the documentary has been President Cyril Ramaphosa’s statement in Parliament that the South African government is investigating money laundering allegations made in the documentary that implicated some individuals and some South African banks. But besides making indications that there will be investigations, no specific action has been taken by South African authorities, even though the documentary levelled specific money laundering allegations against three South African banks, which pointed to poor oversight or supervision gaps on the part of South Africa’s Reserve Bank. There has been no pressure on the South African Reserve Bank, arising from these allegations, from the media or the opposition or non-governmental organisations in South Africa.

Incidentally, the fact that some individuals and at least three commercial banks were implicated by the Al Jazeera documentary effectively muted the South African media’s coverage of the documentary’s Zimbabwe-centric narratives of the documentary.

All told, the documentary has the following implications that might linger on into the near future, depending largely on political circumstances and sentiments of the day.

Unlike Rudland who was wise enough not to meet with or not to entertain Al Jazeera’s undercover journalists, the documentary’s interlocutors who include Angel, Doolan, Rushwaya, Pattni, MacMillan, Mathias and Chidodo said things and name-dropped in ways that are certain to haunt them down the line.

Some of the things said about Mnangagwa particularly by Angel, Pattni, MacMillan and Mathias will indefinitely remain open to curious questions in the public domain.

Although none of the episodes and podcasts of the documentary implicated the RBZ itself directly, and none implicated governor Mangudya, or any of the staff at the bank itself and, further; in fact exonerated the RBZ boss through notable remarks made by MacMillan who said he sought protection from Mnangagwa after he complained to him about his non-cooperation, it is nevertheless quite clear there was a sinister agenda to smear the RBZ to suffer collateral damage, with deleterious consequences on the economy.

Throughout the four episodes and the six podcasts, there was constant reference to Fidelity Printers and Refineries as the “Reserve Bank” or as the “Central Bank.”

In the same vein, former Fidelity staff implicated in the documentary were described as Reserve Bank staff or officials. This conflation between Fidelity and RBZ was a source of confusion in the documentary.

Fidelity is not RBZ. Sins of Fidelity cannot be RBZ sins, simply or only because Fidelity is a subsidiary of RBZ. It is like saying a father must by definition be held liable for a crime committed by his son or daughter. It was mischievous for Al Jazeera to create the impression in its documentary that “Fidelity” is by definition the same thing or is synonymous with the “Reserve Bank” or the “central bank”, when Fidelity is a legal entity in its own right.

In the wake of the broadcast of episode four of the documentary, Al Jazeera published a rather long article apparently meant to tie the documentary’s loose ends, titled “Six secrets uncovered by Al Jazeera’s Gold Mafia investigation”, whose link is indicated immediately below:

This Al Jazeera article made some serious yet untested and thus unproven allegations against RBZ, very damaging allegations which were not made in any of the four episodes of the documentary nor in any of its six podcasts nor tested anywhere.

As part of its summary, the article says:

“The investigation also exposes the involvement of high-ranking officials from Zimbabwe in smuggling and money laundering, which help the country get around the crippling grip of Western sanctions.”

Further, Al Jazeera’s article alleges that:

“None of this would be possible without the involvement of the banking systems of Zimbabwe

and South Africa. In Zimbabwe, Al Jazeera’s investigation showed that Pattni had several members of the central bank on his payroll, including Fradreck Kunaka, at the time the general manager of Fidelity, the bank’s gold refinery. Fidelity authorised smugglers like Pattni and Macmillan to buy gold from Zimbabwean miners on its behalf, documents show. And the central bank also issued letters allowing the smugglers to bring millions of dollars of cash into the country.”

Al Jazeera’s post-documentary allegations are not tested anywhere. Yet they are very damaging. The allegations are not contained in any of the four episodes of the documentary or any of its six podcasts. But even worse, the allegations are untested and are thus unverified.

This suggests a sinister intention of having the allegations in print, for the archives or for use by researchers for major multilateral entities that might have some interest in the RBZ of one sort or another.

Another potentially damaging report that came after all the episodes of the documentary had been broadcast, was published on 17 April 2023 by Veritas, a legal think-tank based in Harare.

Emotively if not provocatively titled, “Economic Governance Watch 01 – 2023 – The Gold Mafia: Time for a Forensic Audit of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe”, the report, whose link is indicated immediately below, used the backdrop of untested and unverified allegations in the Al Jazeera documentary to call for a forensic audit of the RBZ:

Aware that the documentary had not implicated the bank, its governor or any of its proper staff or officials, Veritas prefaced its call for an RBZ audit with this uncritical acceptance of untested Al Jazeera claims:

 “Al Jazeera, a television news network based in Qatar, has broadcast a four-part documentary series entitled ‘Gold Mafia’.  The series looked at how international criminal gangs were buying gold in Zimbabwe and illegally exporting it to countries such as the Dubai. The persons alleged to be carrying on this illegal trade were shown boasting of their close links to the RBZ and to senior government officials, up to and including the President and his wife. They said they had the RBZ governor ‘on speed dial’ and that senior managers of Fidelity Printers and Refineries, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank, were on their payroll to facilitate the issuance of licences to buy and export gold. Through these links, they claimed, all the processes in their trade were made to seem honest, with legitimate paperwork to authorise their gold exports. The RBZ’s response to these allegations has not been entirely consistent.”

It is instructive that the Veritas report merely reproduces or repeats untested, unproven, unverified and uncorroborated Al Jazeera allegations and presents them as fact, while dismissing the RBZ governor’s rebuttal of the same allegations in a Press statement released on 6 March 2023 as “not been entirely consistent”. Consistent with what or in what sense?

Veritas justified its strange call for a forensic audit of RBZ on the scandalous grounds that:

“The Reserve Bank is a vital cog in the country’s economy, and it is essential for it to maintain a spotless reputation for competence, fiscal responsibility and probity. The Al Jazeera series, coming on top of the Bank’s illegal quasi-fiscal activities, have tarnished its reputation and sown suspicion within financial markets, multi-lateral financial institutions and the general Zimbabwean public. In the interests of transparency and accountability an investigation should be undertaken to ascertain precisely what the Bank and its subsidiary companies have been and are doing and whether their activities have been lawful.”

In essence, Veritas is calling for a forensic audit of RBZ “to ascertain precisely what the bank and its subsidiary companies have been and are doing and whether their activities have been lawful.”

This is astonishingly scandalous and disappointing from a legal think-tank. Judging by the words it used in its own report, what Veritas has called for is essentially a shameless fishing expedition, not a forensic audit.

The gratuitous reference to RBZ’s quasi-fiscal activities of more than a decade ago, which thus predate the tenure of the current RBZ governor, to justify the forensic audit call pursuant to Al Jazeera’s documentary, demonstrates the mala fides of the Veritas call whose hidden agenda is in fact naked.

The Veritas report makes sweeping, uninformed and misleading assertions about the implications of legislation that governs the RBZ and its functions with respect to gold buying, gold selling and gold custody, in a desperate effort to give the impression that the RBZ is involved in corruption, gold smuggling and money laundering merely and only by dint of its legislative powers which make it the “custodian of gold”.

Despite these glaring deficiencies of the Veritas report based on untested and unverified Al Jazeera allegations, elements of the local media and sections of the international media widely quoted the report, with some falsely claiming that the RBZ governor “welcomed” the Veritas call for a forensic audit on RBZ.

For example, on 21 April 2023 the privately-owned NewsDay in Harare even carried a shocking editorial, titled “RBZ has a case to answer”. The link to the editorial is indicated immediately below:

“IT has been nearly a week since the last episode of the four-part documentary Gold Mafia was released and yet government remains radio silent. Not a word, not a peep, nothing about the serious allegations made in the documentary.

“This is especially shocking considering that the allegations made in the documentary series involve the country’s apex bank, the RBZ.

“Why this is important is because the RBZ is the sole institution responsible for selling gold, through its subsidiary Fidelity. In fact, as we reported yesterday, legal think-tank Veritas states that the ‘Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act gives the Bank wide powers to buy, sell and keep gold’. That means any sale of gold has to involve the central bank.”

Trevor Ncube, AMH Publisher

The NewsDay editorial entirely relied on the untested Veritas report which, in turn, opportunistically and dishonestly used the unverified Al Jazeera allegations published on its website on 14 April 2023, which were purported to be based on the documentary, when they in fact were not.

What is even more shocking about the NewsDay article is its assertion that because Veritas reported that “the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act gives the bank wide powers to buy, sell and keep gold”, this alone “means that any sale of gold has to involve the central bank.”

What kind of syllogism is this?

The Al Jazeera documentary quoted former Finance minister Tendai Biti as saying “80% of the gold mined in Zimbabwe is smuggled out of the country”, and used the assertion as the baseline of its storyline, and the assertion was echoed by Eddie Cross, a former member of the RBZ Monetary Policy Committee who told a prime time Al Jazeera news programme in support of the documentary that “70% of the gold mined in Zimbabwe is smuggled out of the country”. Neither claim was tested or verified by Al Jazeera.

It boggles the mind how, if these percentages are true or reasonably indicative of the gold smuggling scourge in Zimbabwe, something which was claimed in the documentary, but not verified by Al Jazeera, the RBZ can still be alleged to be involved in the sale of  gold that is said to have been smuggled out of the country [meaning that it was illegally removed from the country] merely because “the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act gives the Bank wide powers to buy, sell and keep gold”.

It is trite to mention that — given the interest in the Al Jazeera documentary in the country —think-tanks and the media in Zimbabwe are not expected to swallow hook, line, and sinker untested and unverified claims in the documentary and peddle them as objective facts, without doing further empirical research to test those facts.

Local think-tanks like Veritas and the local media like NewsDay are expected to identify gaps in the documentary and to fill them with verified facts to further develop the story and take it forward.

In the first place and with the kind of resources that are available to it as an international broadcaster, Al Jazeera itself should have worked with the local media using appropriate methods of investigation.

Traditional investigative reporting relies on public documents, skilled interviewing, exhaustive research and verification. Why should electronic journalists exempt themselves from foundational ethics of journalism and from the rules of objectivity and fairness?

But then again, in the case of NewsDay, it would be too much to expect serious collaborations or further investigations on key issues from Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) proprietor Trevor Ncube’s compromised, incompetently run and corrupt media stable.

For example, in a case that illuminates this point, one of Ncube’s newspapers — the Zimbabwe Independent — was recently part of The Sentry team’s investigation of a controversial US$120 million shady deal stitched by the Moti Group’s African Chrome Fields allegedly involving the presidency and the military.

Before it was unembargoed and published, editors of the Zimbabwe Independent leaked The Sentry report to the Moti Group in exchange for money in a scandal that has shocked the media community in Zimbabwe. The case is currently being dealt with internally, and we are watching that space.

This corruption scandal at Ncube’s media house, which is still live, has rocked AMH after reporters who worked on the story with The Sentry raised a stink, complaining that their editors had leaked the article for payment to line their own pockets with dirty money.

How can the public trust such a media organisation to undertake serious, ethical and professional investigations, let alone collaborate with or challenge the likes of Al Jazeera, when its editors are motivated not by the ethical and professional ethos of journalism but by money for personal enrichment in such a brazen way?

While Ncube has been pontificating about journalists from other media stables being corrupt, his own sinking AMH and its editors are rotten to the core.

There is a clear case of brazen corruption as editors sold a story while betraying their professional colleagues at The Sentry whom they researched the story with, and in the process exposing the Independent’s reporters to serious danger. That is why those reporters are angry and kicking dust over the issue.

What will Ncube do about this reckless and blatant act of corruption by his editors which his own reporters are bitterly complaining about to all and sundry who care to listen?

On 14 April 2023, Ncube wrote on his Twitter handle:

“Corruption has become endemic in Zimbabwe. People bribe police when caught on the wrong side of the law. Paying bribes has become a way of doing business in government and the private sector. Teachers take bribes to teach. Pastors take bribes. Help us fight corruption in our newsrooms. Freelance journalist Simbarashe Sithole was caught taking a bribe this week and has since appeared in court. Sadly, online news scavengers such @Bulawayo24News aid this corruption. There is absolutely no justification for taking bribes.”

Since Ncube appealed for help to fight corruption in the media, here is unimpeachable information on stinking corrupt activities at his own media house by his editors. All eyes are on him to see what he does with it. Will he act or not? Or he was just making noise on 14 April to salvage his own battered reputation?

As if the case of the Zimbabwe Independent leaking The Sentry report was not bad enough, only last week or so an editor at Ncube’s NewsDay which published an outrageous editorial on the RBZ based on untested Al Jazeera allegations, forwarded a story to a local prominent white businessman, exposing corruption to alert him prior to the publication of the story and naturally curry favour with him for financial benefit. That businessman has a financial and mutually beneficial deal with AMH which is known in media circles.

The acting editor concerned is a protégé of the double-dipping Wisdom Mdzungairi, former NewsDay boss, who was forced out in January after he was found to be secretly on a government payroll, holding two jobs at once; working at the ministry of Local Government in the morning and AMH in the afternoon. That is how captured and decayed Ncube’s media house now is.

There is also a well-known case of a shameless attempt by an AMH executive to collect US$20 000 from a local bank executive for an interview. That is why Ncube’s In Conversation with Trevor charade must be scrutinised. What was initially supposed to be a platform for high-profile, candid and hard-hitting interviews and debate has now deteriorated into a pathetic farce driven by unenlightened self-interest, self-promotion and a money-spinning get-up-and-go.

As if that is not bad enough, there is also the National Building Society interview — a disgraceful puff piece scandal by his editors. The interview was published by the Zimbabwe Independent on 24 March 2023 headlined NBS: Exciting times lie ahead.

Ncube must investigate the story behind that interview and see the rot therein.

Reporters are fed up with all these acts of brazen corruption at AMH. These stories will be told in full one of these days, while Ncube is busy acting holier-than-thou, with his head deeply and irretrievably buried in the sand like an ostrich; ridiculously pretending to be an anti-corruption paragon of virtue.

The point is media organisations like NewsDay in the case of the Al Jazeera documentary and Zimbabwe Independent in the case of The Sentry report are not in a position to partner international media houses to do better investigations, probe issues further or indeed disprove some false allegations because they themselves are hopelessly compromised and corrupt.

The failure to probe further Al Jazeera’s important leads cannot be blamed on AMH alone. Zimbabwean media in general, including The NewsHawks, which styles itself as the leading investigating platform in Zimbabwe, failed to do so. Al Jazeera did not provide evidence and proof to their sting operation, so it is up to local media to follow up on those leads to prove or disprove what Al Jazeera reported.

While it was most refreshing insofar as it enabled Zimbabweans to hear directly from high-profile figures like Angel, Auxillia Mnangagwa, Doolan, Rushwaya, MacMillan, Pattni and Mathias in their own voices and in their own words tell not only a gripping, hair-raising and self-incriminating stories about their exploits in gold smuggling and money laundering as well as their gold connections with African Presidents and their families across the continent, including in Zimbabwe, Al Jazeera did not go far enough to prove its claims.

Without doubt, the claims of the interlocutors made for a great documentary from the standpoint of an investigative and human-interest story, but the article was not solid enough by any stretch of the imagination from the perspective of investigative journalism seeking to deliver what Al Jazeera promised or set out to do: prove alleged corruption, gold smuggling, money laundering and sanctions busting by the ruling elite in Zimbabwe allegedly facilitated and enabled by the RBZ as “southern Africa’s largest laundromat”. 

Al Jazeera’s gold mafia story remains blowing in the wind, told but untested and unverified.

In the final analysis, despite its huffing and puffing, Al Jazeera woefully failed by its own promise and measure to meet the expectation of an evidence-based and verified investigation to serve the public good. Its story was a load of hot air.

About the writer: Jonathan Moyo is a professor of politics, a former MP and minister in


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