By Bustop TV Reporter
The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG) has called on the government to thoroughly investigate the circumstances in which minerals are smuggled out of the country by “politically connected criminal networks”.
This follows the recent arrest of one Tashinga Nyasha Masinire at OR Tambo International Airport, South Africa on charges of illegally possessing 23 pieces of gold valued at R11 million or US$700 000 on Sunday by the Hawks police unit.
The gold was discovered in Masinire’s luggage and he failed to produce a permit that allows him to transport or be in possession of the gold.
The arrest of Masinire follows another high-profile arrest of Zimbabwe Miners Federation President, Henrietta Rushwaya in October 2020, who was found with contraband of 6kgs of gold. Rushwaya is yet to be cleared by the courts and has remained at the helm of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation.
Uncomfirmed reports have stated that Masinire is Rushwaya’s driver or used to be one.
Masinire was yesterday (Monday) granted bail by a regional court in Kempton Park and his matter was remanded to July 1, 2021, for further investigation.
The arrest of Masinire by South African authorities raises questions about the porosity of Zimbabwe’s ports. The smooth departure of Masinire with his loot exposes the complicity of Zimbabwe’s immigration and security authorities in the smuggling of the country’s minerals.
In a statement, the natural resource governance civil society organization highlighted that the country is losing billions of dollars in annual revenue through illicit flow of the country’s precious stones through cartels who are proxy to power thereby depriving central government funds thereby jeopardizing the socio-economic lives of citizens.
“Zimbabwe continues to lose BILLIONS OF DOLLARS annually to organized criminal syndicates which have spread their wings from diamonds, chrome, gold, semi-precious gemstones, coal to copper, among other minerals. The syndicates abuse their proximity to power and defraud Zimbabweans and the central government of funds that should be expanding the country’s revenue base and improving the socio-economic lives of Zimbabweans. Today taxpayers bear a heavy burden of funding government expenditure when mineral resources are being plundered by a few,” read the statement.
CNRG also believes that the continued smuggling of minerals through Robert Mugabe International Airport and other ports signal a lack of political will by leaders to address the problem or their involvement with criminal networks prejudicing Zimbabwe.
Smuggling remains attractive for many gold dealers in Zimbabwe because of uncompetitive gold prices offered by the government’s sole gold buyer, Fidelity Printers. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe subsidiary pays US$44,000 for a kilogramme of gold, whereas private buyers – who inevitably smuggle the gold out of the country – pay up to US$60,000 per kilogramme which is later sold in SA under false presences to secure lucrative VAT rebates.