GOLD baron Pedzai “Scott” Sakupwanya — who is close to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his sons — has risen to become a legislator, despite losing in the 23 August general elections, after splashing cash and goodies to restive residents of Mabvuku-Tafara in an ostentatious campaign.
This week, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) blatantly facilitated daylight robbery of Mabvuku-Tafara voters by imposing Sakupwanya, a Zanu PF candidate, to replace the popular Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi, from the main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), who was recalled by the impostor secretary-general, Sengezo Tshabangu.
In August, Sakupwanya lost the Mabvuku parliamentary seat to Kufahakutizwi, despite a trailblazing campaign characterised by cash and goodies, showing the nexus between money and the the electorate’s needs and wants.
The highlight of Sakupwanya’s campaign was the visit to Mabvuku by the multi-million-dollar former world boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr, ostensibly to promote the sport in Zimbabwe. But Mayweather appeared to be canvassing for Sakupwanya and Zanu PF during his brief visit.
Kufahakutizwi was popularly elected MP in the August general elections, but was this week removed through recalls coordinated by controversial activist Sengezo Tshabangu who is widely believed to be working with the ruling party, state security agents, embittered political opportunists, the executive, Parliament and the judiciary.
The Mabvuku-Tafara issue has deceit and blood spattered all over it. After Kufahakutizwi had been recalled, the inconsistent and incoherent Tshabangu said it had been done by mistake.
So, the CCC candidate went to court to confirm his eligibility in the by-election, but the same Tshabangu opposed his move.
Meanwhile, Zec jumped in and said Kufahakutizwi had also been disqualified by the High Court.
Through that web of deceit and gas-lighting the public, Zec declared Sakupwanya duly elected unopposed, indicating brazen fraud.
In the run-up to the by-elections, Kufahakutizwi’s campaign pillar Pastor Tapfumaneyi Masaya was abducted and murdered in cold blood by brutes said to be connected to Sakupwanya.
While Masaya’s family, relatives and friends expected the police to play their part beyond just recovering the body, little has been done to bring closure to his callous murder.
Even though police were given names of the suspects, they have done nothing about it, with the suspects still roaming the streets, yet police were given the names of the Zanu PF-connected assailants, some of them with links to Sakupwanya himself.
Eventually, Sakupwanya is now MP through brazen fraud and blood-spilling typical of Zanu PF throughout its history.
To fund his campaign, more blood has been shed through mining operations at Redwing Mine in Manicaland where his company Better Brands has been extracting gold under controversial circumstances, endangering the lives of artisanal miners who are being subjected to horrific working conditions.
The mine, formerly under Metallon Gold (Pvt) Ltd, is now occupied by Sakupwanya and some senior civil servants. He used proceeds from the mine to build a war chest for President Mnangagwa in the 2023 general election.
Better Brands (Pvt), with over 132 claims in Penhalonga alone, currently manages mining and milling operations at Redwing Mine.
The company contracts artisanal and small-scale miners to extract and surrender ore to them, which has become a new mining model, as the company seeks to reduce operational costs.
Villagers and civil society organisations operating in Penhalonga have been complaining about the increase in the deaths of gold panners, with 26 dying at Redwing Mine in January alone.
In January, the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) moved in to briefly halt operations over fatalities and environmental degradation concerns, but the resumption of operations in March saw more miners dying.
While the reasons behind the deaths have varied, the director of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), Farai Maguwu, told The NewsHawks in April: “That entire enterprise is something that is operating against our environmental laws. There were two deaths that were recorded last week because of the unsafe mining practices, whereby when they go down digging, there are some chemicals that produce very toxic gases.”
“So, when people go in there, and they do not have these oxygen tanks, they get intoxicated and die instantly. That is how the two guys died last week. And then, you have the environmental destruction whereby these people operate outside the law. They do not reclaim their pits after they finish mining,” Maguwu said.
Better Brands has also been minting money from the government’s Gold Incentives Scheme (GIS), which has been used to fund the ostentatious political campaigns.
In 2021, Better Brands pocketed US$460 million in revenue at the expense of artisanal and small-scale miners. Sakupwanya got 5% for every 20kgs of gold delivered by artisanal miners.
Mining activity by artisanal miners working under Better Brands has been leaving a trail of destruction, with hazardous chemicals being deposited into Penhalonga’s Lake Alexander which supplies over 25% of the City of Mutare’s drinking water, sparking fears of a health hazard.
Illicit miners in the area have been engaging in alluvial gold mining, which has seen the unchecked use of mercury and cyanide, both used in the extraction of gold.
Sakupwanya was also exposed in the explosive Gold Mafia documentary by Qatari news channel Al Jazeera as President Mnangagwa’s runner, who helped him to build a war chest for the 2023 elections.
The scandal exposed how well-knit syndicates — all linked to Mnangagwa — have been involved in money laundering and gold smuggling with government collusion.
In the investigation, which shows how Zimbabwe is losing at least 200 kilogrammes of gold per month, controversial prophet Uebert Angel phoned Sakupwanya and offered him money from undercover reporters posing as gangsters, so that he buys gold.
He accepted the offer, promising 10% interest.
Asked how he could transfer profits to the undercover journalists by Angel, Sakupwanya said he could transfer money anywhere in the world. In the call, he also claimed to have sold six tonnes of gold in 10 months.
“I guess I can do 10% per month. It depends on where are they from (the investors). If they are from Dubai, I can pay into their Dubai account. Anywhere. Anywhere in the world I can manage to transfer. Not a problem for me,” Sakupwanya says in the phone call.
According to Angel, who was keen on ensuring that the job to launder money did not go to Ewan McMillan so that he remained in control, Sakupwanya has managed to keep his wealth, proceeds of gold, due to his loyalty to Mnangagwa.
“Because he is (pointing above, to indicate that he is Mnangagwa’s man) … and the President,” Angel said in the documentary.
He said Sakupwanya had surpassed his former boss and smuggler MacMillan, even taking over his moniker “Mr Gold” to become “The New Mr Gold”.
“He is the biggest gold buyer in Zimbabwe. He is right there, he’s in his house sitting on five million,” says Angel while showing undercover journalists a picture of Sakupwanya on his phone. “This guy used to clean (Ewan) MacMillan’s car. MacMillan was the one that he worked for. Scott is number one. Number one without doubt. We can call him right now.”