Gold Smuggling Syndicates in Zimbabwe Threaten Mining Development

Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust (GGZT) is deeply concerned by media reports that a Zimbabwean man, was caught while attempting to smuggle gold via neighbouring South Africa. Preliminary reports state that the 33-year-old man was arrested at O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Saturday 08 May, with smuggled gold worth R11 million (about USD $730, 000).

South Africa’s elite police unit the Hawks, which arrested the suspect released a brief statement but did not disclose the identity of the suspect who had pieces of gold without the requisite license to carry nor declare to officials. The suspect is set to appear before the Kempton Park Regional Court facing charges of contravening the Customs Act 91 of 1964 and the Precious Metals Act 37 of 2005,

“The traveller was requested to scan his luggage at International Arrivals Customs section of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) where 23 pieces of gold were found in his luggage.” The Haws were called to effect the arrest and further investigate. The 23 pieces of gold worth R11 million were seized for further investigation,” according to the statement released by the Hawks.

The latest case brings into context reports by government, in particular Minister of Home Affairs Hon. Kazembe Kazembe, that at least US$100 million worth of gold is smuggled outside the country on a monthly basis.
Recently, the arrest of a high-profile figure Ms Henrietta Rushwaya, a former president of the Zimbabwe Miners Federations, point to a worrying trend of pilferage and smuggling of gold by syndicates.

It is also telling that this cache was only detected outside our borders. It proves beyond reasonable doubt that the syndicates work in cahoots with the security sector and politicians in their smuggling excursions.

Furthermore, Zimbabwean borders are porous and are facilitating the smuggling of mineral wealth at a time when the country is facing liquidity challenges, hyperinflation, high levels of unemployment and high levels of informality.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which led to various periods of lockdowns, has had a debilitating impact on millions of impoverished, vulnerable and informal workers, who could not conduct business in those times.

Women and children still remain vulnerable to impacts of the pandemic, compounding the environmental costs thrust upon resource rich communities as a result of natural resource extraction activities.
We call upon the government, in light of its Constitutional mandate to institute a Commission of Inquiry into the rampant levels of smuggling of minerals from gold to diamonds, via neighbouring countries.

It is our conviction that this can only be the tip pf the iceberg, which can only be fully understood if government expends its resources towards fighting and reducing smuggling, which is a harmful form of Illicit Financial Flows.
Enforcement of national laws is a sacrosanct duty that security personnel, tax officials and immigration officials must take with requisite importance to guard jealously our national wealth.

In this respect government must ensure that it pays civil service commensurate remuneration to dissuade them from taking bribes or conniving with criminal elements to smuggle gold and other precious minerals.

This pervasive trend of looting national wealth puts paid talk of the country achieving Upper Middle Class Income Status by 2030 as natural resources or rents from their exploitation must contribute to economic development.

We call on government to collaborate with civic society partners to create joint monitoring mechanisms, develop internal capacity of its security arms and invest in airport and border surveillance equipment.

The amendment of the Mines and Minerals Bill is also long overdue and must be accelerated to ensure that the sector has a binding legislation to ensure that our finite resources form part of our sovereign wealth for future generations.

In the same manner, Zimbabweans must also advance progressive policies which embody the principles of the African Mining Vision (AMV), to ensure that minerals are not only mined and exported in raw form but are value added locally. We need to take que from Tanzania which has successfully managed to set up a world standard gold processing plant.

Joining the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) is another option that the government may consider to promote responsible investment, transparent and accountable mining operations.

Source: Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust