Editorial Comment: Gold Mafia: Credible probe a must

The leakages are happening at a time when the majority of Zimbabweans are sinking deeper into poverty because of a faltering economy and a collapsing currency.

After weeks of denials and attempts to muzzle the media over the grave allegations of gold smuggling and money laundering by some politically exposed people, the government has finally given Zimbabweans some assurance that it will institute credible investigations into the scandal.

Over a month ago, Zimbabweans learnt with shock that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ambassador at large Ubert Angel and Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya as a well as other prominent gold dealers had been secretly recorded by undercover journalists from an international broadcaster detailing how they launder millions of dollars in dirty money using state institutions and smuggle gold out of Zimbabwe.

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera last month started screening a four part documentary titled: Gold Mafia, which has so far exposed alleged gold smuggling, money laundering and abuse of diplomatic immunity by well-knit syndicates.

It is expected that Al Jazeera will broadcast the final episode of the documentary this week, but what has been revealed in the previous three episodes warrants serious action to be taken against the characters who incriminated themselves in the conversations with the journalists in the mistaken belief that they were marketing their services to a criminal gang that wanted to spread its tentacles into Zimbabwe.

The authorities announced that they had frozen assets of some of the characters implicated in the documentary and that arrests were imminent. 

However, announcements about the asset freezes were very short on detail and it is difficult to ascertain whether indeed action is being taken or the authorities are trying to manage public opinion in light of the anger that has been fuelled by evidence of impunity by those claiming connections to the highest offices.

The issues raised by the Al Jazeera documentary are very grave and they have to be taken seriously by the state. To put it into context, Zimbabwe is said to be losing gold worth U$1.5 billion annually to smuggling syndicates.

The leakages are happening at a time when the majority of Zimbabweans are sinking deeper into poverty because of a faltering economy and a collapsing currency.

Funding for social services such as education and health continues to dwindle and the country’s  pensioners are getting a pittance as pensions.  The potential revenue that is lost to the smuggling syndicates can be injected into the economy to swiftly change the country’s fortunes.

What has infuriated Zimbabweans more is the lack of remorse by those implicated, who have been trying to justify the criminality by claiming that they were helping the country to evade sanctions.

One of Angel's backers Passion Java is even boasting that nothing is going to happen to Mnangagwa’s envoy and his accomplices.  Zimbabweans expect to see the law being applied without fear or favour and for justice to prevail.

Anything short of that will be a great disservice to the country by the government and those institutions charged with the mandate to ensure law and order.

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