THE chickens have finally come home to roost for Henrietta Rushwaya, or so it seems, following numerous close shaves with the law.
When she was arrested at Robert Mugabe International Airport in October 2020 while trying to smuggle 6 kilogrammes of gold to Dubai, many Zimbabweans believed she would escape with just a slap on the wrist — like she had done several times before. The gold was worth US$333 042, 28.
But early this week, Rushwaya, who is President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s niece, a close relative of chief secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Martin Rushwaya, the president of the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation was found guilty of the offence.
She was of course denying the smuggling charges, claiming she picked the wrong handbag as she went to the airport.
High Court judge Justice Pisirayi Kwenda convicted Rushwaya (56) and remanded her in custody to 10 November 2023 for sentencing.
Rushwaya was indicted to the High Court for trial early this year. The conviction came as a surprise to many people, given the perception that she has over the years enjoyed protection because of her relations with Mnangagwa and other senior Zanu PF officials.
Besides Mnangagwa, Rushwaya was also close to former vice-president Joseph Msika. At one time she served as director of sport in his office.
Rushwaya’s catalogue of close shaves The controversial former Zimbabwe Football Association chief executive, whose tenure was marred by allegations of match fixing in which she played a central role, complicated her situation when she nailed herself as a dirty player in the gold sector, who has facilitated the looting of gold through private jets and helped in money laundering schemes, after being recorded by an Al Jazeera undercover investigative team and broadcast early this year.
This was before her gold smuggling case had been finalised. Henrietta, who has a string of past scandals dating back to 2007, was among those exposed by undercover reporters who, posing as gangsters with up to US$1 billion in dirty money, approached President Mnangagwa’s Ambassador-at-Large, Eubert Angel, and critical players in Zimbabwe’s gold sector seeking to launder cash, with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Fidelity Printers and Refiners acting as a laundromat.
Angel is recorded phoning Henrietta, who reveals they use private jets to pick up gold as part of their smuggling and laundering activities.
“You want gold, we can make the call and it’s done with the president of the miners’ association, right this minute. Let me just call Rushwaya,” says Angel to undercover reporters, while calling.
Angel then tells Rushwaya he has people who want to get gold “like the other deals that we normally do with these people, like the one we did in Dubai. He tells the ZMF boss that the investors are prepared to send a private jet that picks up gold every week.
“Oh perfect. Now that’s okay. It’s doable. What quantity do they do?” asks Rushwaya. Angel tells Rushwaya the dealers want 100kgs of gold every week. She immediately offers them a 4% discount on world prices, before detailing how she can assist them to clean their money.
“They bring in US$10 million, for instance. Five million will be put into Fidelity for the duration of their relationship. They get gold worth US$5 million every week, they take it out, bring another US$5 million,” she says.
Rushwaya also offers to clean an additional US$5 million through one of her producers, whom she says can add onto the parcel that is taken out, bring the total to US$10 million a week. “You can easily open an account for them under one of your many companies. We are the only sector in the country that is paying in foreign currency cash basis,” she says.
Rushwaya’s close dance with the law can be traced back to 2007, after her appointment ZIFA chief executive.
She was accused of stealing Zifa funds between 2007 and 2008, but was eventually found not guilty after her trial in 2008.
Rushwaya was also arrested while on bail in the matter on attempting to defeat the course of justice charges.
In 2012 she was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission on allegations of bribery and match-fixing linked to the Asiagate match-fixing scandal.
She appeared in court facing 11 counts of concealing transactions from a principal, two counts of fraud, and 15 others of bribery involving US$1 million.
Chitungwiza regional magistrate Estere Chivasa however found her not guilty of the charges in 2013. Rushwaya was arrested again in 2014 on charges of extorting Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries leader Walter Magaya.
She was arrested again in 2016 over match fixing allegations involving the senior national team, players, referees, coaches and betting syndicates following a trio to Malysia as well as her involvement in what is known as the Limpopogate scandal, where she allegedly fixed an African cup of Nations qualifier against Swaziland.
The case died down without a conviction, just like her other cases. Rushwaya was fired from Zifa on 26 October 2016 after a disciplinary tribunal ruled she had been responsible for mismanagement and insubordination.
She was then surprisingly elected president of the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation in 2018, giving her a platform to engage in dirty gold deals, which have resulted in her being locked up.