IN WHAT is believed to be one of the biggest hauls of recovered illicit gold by authorities, police seized 6kg of the
precious metal from the president of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF), Henrietta Rushwaya, as she
attempted to board a plane at Robert Mugabe International Airport yesterday.
Rushwaya, 53, — the controversial former Zifa chief executive — was due to fly to Dubai, in the United Arab
Emirates, when airport security scanners flagged her hand luggage — which was said to be concealing the gold haul
worth nearly US$400 000.
This comes as the government has revealed that the country is losing tens of tonnes of gold worth millions of scarce American dollars to smuggling syndicates.
National police spokesperson Paul Nyathi confirmed Rushwaya’s arrest to the Daily News last night, adding that
she would appear in court today to answer charges of smuggling.
“The ZRP confirms the arrest of Henrietta Rushwaya at RGM International Airport this afternoon (yesterday) after scanners at the airport checkpoint indicated that there was something in her hand luggage. As a result, searches revealed that the suspect had 6,09kg of gold which had not been legally and properly cleared with Customs and other relevant offices for export.”
“This is a suspected smuggling case and police are now conducting investigations. We have taken the gold to Fidelity Printers for assaying (assessment of the quality),” Nyathi said. He revealed that Rushwaya was due to board an Emirates flight that was destined for Dubai when she was arrested.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) said detectives from the minerals section were tipped off about Rushwaya’s alleged smuggling plan, who — in turn — tipped the Airports Company of Zimbabwe which instructed its security personnel to thoroughly examine Rushwaya’s bag.
“Gold was detected by the scanner in the accused’s bag which formed part of her hand luggage. “The bag was searched in the presence of the accused by CID … detectives whilst other stakeholders at the airport
witnessed the search.
“Approximately 6kg of gold, whose value is yet to be determined, was found stashed in the accused’s personal luggage,” the CID said.
Rushwaya allegedly claimed that the gold belonged to a gold buyer identified only as Ali, who traded as Ali Japan 786 Private Limited. She also apparently claimed to have been sent to deliver the gold to an unidentified individual in Dubai.
“The accused was asked to supply export documents in respect of the gold and she failed to do so, leading to her arrest,” the CID added.
Curiously, Ali Japan 786 and its representative Ali Mohammed signed a deal with Rushwaya and small-scale miners two weeks ago — where the company said it would provide 200 vehicles to the federation by year-end. Under the deal, the small-scale miners were set to get vehicles and mobile mining equipment.
“So we are coming in as a company to make sure that we support them with logistics in the operation of their business. “For a start, we will be bringing in a total of 200 vehicles before the end of this year, which we will avail to the miners.
“We will be advancing the vehicles on very flexible terms where people (smallscale miners) can pay in three to six
months,” Ali said at the unveiling of the deal with ZMF on October 11. Rushwaya has been previously implicated in the infamous Asiagate scandal which involved football match fixing. This saw her being arrested and appearing in
court on allegations of corruption.
Last year she was mentioned by former Zanu PF youth league deputy secretary Lewis Matutu as one of the high-profile people that were mired in corruption, but denied the accusation which she said was made after she refused to be “extorted” by the former youth leader.
All this comes as authorities have reported losing tonnes of gold in illicit trades. Finance minister Mthuli Ncube told a breakfast meeting organised by the Daily News last year that the country had lost between 30 and 34 tonnes of gold due to smuggling.
“When we spoke to our colleagues in South Africa at the Rand Refinery in Cape Town, we saw a jewellery shop. They said that’s all your gold from Zimbabwe.
“A total of between 30 and 34 tonnes are smuggled into South Africa. We will have a discussion with RBZ governor
John Mangudya in terms of output and retention percentages to enable gold miners to sell their gold through proper channels.
“But the deliveries have been going down at Fidelity Printers because of leakages in the sector, which we are finding a way to plug so that output is accounted for in the formal sector,” Ncube said then.