Harare, Zimbabwe – Revelations of gold smuggling by individuals affiliated with Zimbabwean government officials and the ruling party in an Al Jazeera documentary have sparked outrage in the country.
He revealed how huge amounts of gold are smuggled every month from Zimbabwe, Africa’s sixth largest gold producer, to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, facilitating money laundering through a complex network of front companies, fake invoices and paid officials.
Uebert Angel, presidential envoy and roving ambassador to Europe and the Americas since March 2021, was secretly filmed bragging that he could easily move $1.2 billion, due to his diplomatic immunity.
Others filmed or named in the documentary as part of smuggling rings include Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation President Henrietta Rushwaya – believed to be President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s niece – and Kamlesh Pattania businessman previously implicated in a gold smuggling scandal in Kenya.
Pattni, who ‘knighted’ Robert Mugabe as king of kings in March 2012, presenting the late leader with a black robe and gold crown, still has strong ties to the ruling party.
In October 2020, Rushwaya was arrested at Harare airport for attempting to smuggle gold into Dubai. His case is still before the courts, but the National Prosecuting Authority said there was insufficient evidence for a conviction.
In Zimbabwe, the film’s revelations caused a stir.
The illicit gold trade has long been estimated to cost Zimbabwe around $100 million per month, according to official estimates.
The country is reeling from years of economic mismanagement that led to high inflation and unemployment. According to World Bank figures, half of the country’s 16 million people live in extreme poverty – on $30 or less a month.
There have been numerous allegations of rampant corruption affecting the economy and government critics say the documentary has once again revealed the level of corruption in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabweans have called for swift justice against those involved in the film.
Angirayi Moyowatidhi, a 45-year-old street vendor in Harare, expressed outrage at what he said was organized plunder of the country’s resources.
“When we were little, we were told how colonial rule from Cecil John Rhodes to Ian Smith plundered our country’s resources and outsourced them to the UK. Now we are seeing the same process except it is being done by our elected black leaders,” Moyowatidhi told Al Jazeera.
“People involved in smuggling gold and breaking the laws of the land to profit from gold must be arrested, regardless of their position and position in life,” said Gift Gadza, a young freelancer from 29 years old in Harare at Al Jazeera.
“Ordinary people like me are suffering while others are living enough from the looting of gold. I think we need to unite as a people and protest against the looting of resources in the country,” Gadza said.
Chris Mutsvangwa, spokesman for the ruling African National Union-Zimbabwe Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), blamed the West for trying to foment public anger through the documentary.
“The country’s critics, who have coalesced around George Soros and his Open Society Institute of Southern Africa, are clearly upset and terribly disappointed that Zimbabwe has come back and resurrected gold as the benchmark anchor for the US dollar,” he said. Mutsvangwa said in a statement.
“Countries under sanctions need to find ways around the sanctions,” government spokesman Nick Mangwana said in a tweet, drawing widespread criticism from users. “That may mean having to source from third parties or sell on the gray market.”
Online anger led to the scandal becoming a trending story on Twitter in the country since Friday.
“The #Aljazeeradocumentary exposes the extent of the rot at the top, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” tweeted Nelson Chamisa, leader of the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). “It clearly shows how corrupt, rotten and broken leadership has destroyed a jewel and a great country. Zimbabwe is not poor, it is just badly governed!
THE FISH ROTTEN FROM THE HEAD #Aljazeeradocumentary exposes the extent of the top rot, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It clearly shows how corrupt, rotten and broken leadership has destroyed a jewel and a great country. Zimbabwe is not poor, it is just badly governed!
— Nelson Chamisa (@nelsonchamisa) March 24, 2023
Trevor Ncube, a longtime Zimbabwean government critic and former editor of South Africa’s Mail & Guardian, said Mnangagwa should have already responded to the allegations.
“Silence is not an option,” Ncube tweeted.
Under normal circumstances @edmnangagwa would hold a press conference to respond to the damning allegations in the first episode of the Documentary #AlJazeera . He addressed the nation, answered questions from journalists. Silence is not an option. I am an optimist. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/MnZOyvph82
— Trevor Ncube (@TrevorNcube) March 24, 2023
Some asked Mnangagwa to fire Angel.
If ED isn’t involved in this gold mafia thing, we’ll see him immediately relieve the prophet Ubert Angel of his duties because the prophet referenced the president in his discussion to the effect that he might enter into agreements in the absence of the President and on his…
– Orphan cover Setfree 🇿🇼 (@cdesetfree) March 24, 2023
Other Twitter users called for Mnangagwa’s resignation.
“Emmerson Mnangagwa is the criminal that surrounds Zimbabwe. We call on all patriotic Zimbabweans to join us in our call for the resignation of the President. It is not about Ubert but about his employer number 1. To the Police, Soldiers this message is also intended for you, ”tweeted Team Pachedu.
Some of the people identified in the documentary have denied the charges.
“The reality is that the Ambassador has never traded gold or moved money for anyone,” Angel said in a statement, daring anyone with evidence to the contrary to come forward. “It is clear from the documentary that Ambassador Angel and his team were never shown trading gold.
“These words [in the documentary] were made in an effort to get the true picture of these fake investors and it became clear that the intelligence agents were 100% right,” he added.