ZIMBABWEAN President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been left exposed and politically vulnerable following ground-breaking revelations by Qatar-based international television network Al Jazeera’s of gold smuggling, corruption and money laundering.
The disclosures have shaken the country and the political landscape to the core. For the first time, Zimbabweans have seen the optics of how their gold is smuggled and money is laundered by criminal syndicates connected to top government officials and politicians who have cornered the precious mineral found in abundance across the country, while leaving them impoverished.
While the investigation brought so many things to light and left the nation shell-shocked, one of the most instructive disclosures about Gold Mafia — the investigative documentary film — is that all the main characters are linked directly and indirectly to Mnangagwa.
This is even before the three other episodes of the film are aired. More revelations are coming which will leave Mnangagwa, the centre of gravity for action, worse off. Mnangagwa’s wife, First Lady Auxilia, is expected to feature in one of the coming episodes of the documentary series talking to Presidential envoy and Ambassador-at-Large Prophet Uebert Angel (real name Uebert Mudzanire) about gold dealings and influence peddling.
Already, we have learnt from Angel that if one needs to see Mnangagwa they would have to pay US$200 000 cash upfront for access.
The issue of people being charged to see Mnangagwa has been there for years now, but the President’s office and police have warned against abuse of his name for personal gain, including name-dropping.
The cash-for-access strategy in government is familiar. Controversial Zimbabwean socialite Susan Mutami, who now lives in Australia and has accused Mnangagwa of rape, claimed some Russian mining investors in 2019 had to pay US$150 000 through Mines deputy minister Polite Kambamura which he shared with an unnamed President’s son for their papers to be signed.
“In early 2019, there was a private jet that came to Zimbabwe and parked at Harare International Airport (now Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport) for a couple of days,” Mutami posted on Twitter on 5 February 2022.
“These guys were Russian and wanted a deal in mining, but because (Mines minister Winston) Chitando kept on going around in circles in signing their paperwork. “These guys then offered Polite Kambamura US$150 000 cash and Polite roped in the president’s son in the deal and they flew on their private jet to Victoria Falls where the president was for him to sign their paperwork.”
The US$150 000 which Mutami — who claimed to have had a love relationship with Kambamura — says the Russians paid in 2019 for Mnangagwa to sign their mining deal papers is not far removed from the US$200 000 that Angel spoke about as the access fee.
Zimbabweans are reeling under severe poverty amid economic implosion, with far-reaching social and political ramifications.
Every part of the country has gold deposits in varying quantities and qualities, and the mining is largely operated by artisanal miners who produce 60% of the mineral despite remaining poverty-stricken. Zimbabwe has significant reserves of platinum group metals, gold, chrome, coal, diamonds and lithium, among others.
The mining sector contributes about 12% of the country’s US$25 billion gross domestic product, and over 60% of its export earnings. The country, which earns about US$2 billion from gold annually, is losing at least US$100 million a month through smuggling and corruption.
Zimbabwe gold output surged to 35.38 tonnes in 2022, spurred by new mining projects, timely payments and incentives to miners.
Since he came to power through a military coup in November 2017, Mnangagwa’s criminal associates and wheeler-dealers have crawled out of the woodwork. Opportunists have also jumped onto the bandwagon, parading themselves with him and posting pictures at the slightest opportunity to demonstrate their proximity to power and leverage.
The President is surrounded by dodgy characters deeply mired in corrupt activities. The Al Jazeera investigation reveals how billions of dollars’ worth of gold is smuggled from Zimbabwe to Dubai, allowing criminals to clean dirty money through a web of shell companies, fake invoices and paid-off officials.
Moses Nango, a South African Airways customer service agent who has worked at the airport for a long time, explains that the underworld gold smugglers go in and out through the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare, flying to and from Dubai — the Middle East’s gold trading hub — using Emirates flights EK714 and EK713.
They smuggle gold and money in broad daylight. Al Jazeera’s hidden cameras installed at the airport and which they travelled with during the investigation show the smuggling activities through revealing video footage. Angel was recorded in Al Jazeera’s undercover investigation promising to help smuggle US$1.2 billion into Zimbabwe through a diplomatic bag and launder money from a Chinese mafia led by a fictitious Mr Stanley, a Sino gangster with links to the Triads.
The self-proclaimed prophet even said he could smuggle a person in his diplomatic bag, just to emphasise his freedom and impunity. Initially the mafia had said they wanted to smuggle and clean US$100 million through Zimbabwe.
Angel promised the Chinese mafia smuggling and laundry services for the money. He said “it’s easy” to do it because he would use a diplomatic bag which is not searched in terms of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and no one would dare stop him until the money reaches his Greystone Park home in Harare.
Further, Angels adds that he is the No.2 diplomat in Zimbabwe to Mnangagwa and has plenipotentiary powers — independent authority — to sign agreements and treaties on behalf of the country. Essentially, Angel says he can smuggle and launder the money for a commission.
Smelling a life-changing staggering commission from the US$1.2 billion being dangled in one of the sting operation meetings, he even says Mnangagwa will die in office. It is his way of avoiding spooking the mafia with their cash due to political uncertainty.
The investigative film is titled Gold Mafia. Its main characters include Kenyan tycoon Kamlesh Pattni, who was involved in the 1990s Goldenberg Scandal which almost bankrupted Kenya, but is now smuggling gold from Zimbabwe; Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya, who is also Mnangagwa’s niece; notorious gold dealer Ewan MacMillan; Alistair Mathias, MacMillan’s business partner who advises clients on how to clean their dirty cash; local business magnate Simon Rudland; Rikki Doolan who is married to Angel’s niece Nicola; and Angel himself.
In meetings, Angel is seen sitting next to his brother Limit Mudzanire and Dr Sobona Mtisi, chief investments and projects officer in Angel’s office, who is married to his niece Joy; sister to Nicola. There is also Dmytro Abakumov, Pattni’s runner, featuring in the documentary. Mnangagwa, whose local political allies like former State Security Owen “Mudha” Ncube and Pedzisayi “Scott” Sakupwanya, among others, are involved in gold dealings, is closely linked with the dodgy characters in the Gold Mafia film. Pattni, the MacMillans — Ewan and his family — as well as the Rudlands, Angel and Rushwaya, including their business partners and runners, are directly and indirectly linked to Mnangagwa and his network, making him the centre of gravity in the scandal.
The latest Mnangagwa entanglement in a gold scandal comes after he was also implicated in another similar issue 20 years ago. In 2003, Mnangagwa, then Speaker of Parliament after he had lost his Kwekwe parliamentary seat to the then MDC official Blessing Chebundo in 2000, was accused of receiving ZW$8 million from an illegal gold miner.
The allegations surfaced when Mark Matthew Burden, accused of trading in gold without a licence, appeared before the High Court. Owner of several licensed mining operations, including Ivan Hoe Mine and eight gold custom mining plants, Burden was in court for illegally milling ore from small-scale miners and panners in Mnangagwa’s hometown, Kwekwe.
“Upon perusal of the bank documents, police discovered that the accused had made the following cheque payments to ED Mnangagwa. On 17 September 2003, the accused paid ED Mnangagwa ZW$8 million using bank cheque 693803,” court records show.
“When asked about these payments, which the police suspected to have been related to gold transactions, the accused could not satisfactorily explain,” the state said in the charge sheet.” Mnangagwa’s name was later removed from the charge sheet.
Burden was accused of milling gold ore from other registered miners, small-scale miners and gold panners around Kwekwe.
“The accused would then buy gold at parallel market rate after milling gold ore from various people,” documents said.
Detectives had earlier received information that Burden was buying gold at a price higher than the one offered by Fidelity Printers and Refiners, the sole official buyer of gold, implying therefore that he would not deliver to Fidelity.
“Hence, it was suspected that he was externalising the gold,” the charge sheet said.
More than 2 000kg of gold was discovered at Burden’s house. Mnangagwa’s family, wife and son Collins, are also implicated in the Rushwaya 2020 foiled gold smuggling scandal. Rushwaya was arrested at the airport in Harare trying to smuggle 6.09kg worth US$366 000 to Dubai. She is still trying to wriggle off the hook on that.
Besides this, there are stunning revelations in a court case involving Bulawayo tycoon Mohammed Zakariya Patel and his former righthand man Ismail Moosa Lunat which exposes gold dealing, illegal currency transactions and money laundering involving Mnangagwa’s office and Auxilia. The evidence of criminality contained in court documents and chats between Patel and Lunat covers the period from 24 May 2018 to 14 January 2019.
The President’s Office is named in some of the communications between them. The bulk of the evidence consists of WhatsApp messages between Patel and Lunat, records of local and international money transfers, memorandums, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe intelligence memos, a series of transactions that egregiously violate the Exchange Control Act, gold deals and money laundering statutes.
Lunat was Patel’s accountant for a period stretching from May 2018 to July 2019, hence intimately involved in his finances.
When they fell out, they took each other to court while exposing their dirty linen in public. In short, these characters involved in smuggling and money laundering in the Gold Mafia investigative film are All the President’s Men. (The phrase is derived from the 1976 American biographical political drama thriller film about the Watergate Scandal — one of the biggest stories in the history of investigative journalism — that brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon).