Editorial Comment: Gold mafia: Citizens deserve urgent answers

Gold Mafia project image by Al Jazeera

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s continued silence after the release of the damning documentary by Qatar-based television news network Al Jazeera exposing the smuggling of gold and money laundering at an industrial scale brings to question his administration’s commitment to fight corruption.

Al Jazeera’s undercover reporters infiltrated gold-smuggling rings operating in southern Africa, mainly in Zimbabwe and South Africa and they exposed large-scale looting of the precious mineral and money laundering schemes.

The first episode of the investigation, which aired last week, featured Mnangagwa’s ambassador-at-large Ubert Angel, aka Ubert Mudzanire, who confessed to using his diplomatic bag to bring into the country millions of dollars in dirty money for “cleaning”.

The controversial cleric also boasted about his proximity to the president and how powerful he was as he tried to impress the undercover journalists whom he believed were agents of the underworld that needed his services. He claimed Mnangagwa was aware of his criminal activities.

Also featuring in the documentary is Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya, who is also said to be Mnangagwa’s niece.

The Al Jazeera reporters recorded a conversation between Angel and Rushwaya where they discussed buying gold for their money laundering scheme.

There is also Kenyan-born Kamlesh Pattni, who was at the centre of one of the east African country’s biggest corruption scandals in history where US$600 million was stolen from the state through dirty gold deals.

He moved his operations to Dubai and Zimbabwe where he also boasts of influence in the highest offices.

What is disconcerting about the whole scandal is the constant mention of Mnangagwa’s name and state institutions that are said to be the key enablers for the cartels.

The government has in the past expressed concerns that it is losing millions of dollars in potential revenue due to the smuggling of gold every year.

Such money could be better spent in reviving collapsing infrastructure and ensuring the provision of basic social services to the poor.

In 2020, the International Crisis Group revealed that more than $1,5 billion of gold was smuggled out of Zimbabwe every year and it often found its way into the bullion-trading hub of Dubai.

It is in that context that the revelations by Al Jazeera should trigger immediate action, moreso that the president’s name has been dragged into the scandal by people that purport to be his close associates.

Zimbabweans, whose assets are being plundered by the heartless, politically exposed people while they wallow in poverty, deserve answers.

Mnangagwa should, as a matter of urgency, re-assure Zimbabweans that their country is not slipping into a den for the underworld under his watch as the Al Jazeera documentary claims.

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