By Own Correspondent
JOHANNESBURG – A Zimbabwean man accused of smuggling gold worth over US$700,000 into South Africa through OR Tambo International Airport was granted bail by a regional court in Kempton Park on Monday.
Tashinga Nyasha Masinire, 33, was detained on Saturday afternoon after flying into South Africa from Harare with 23 pieces of gold worth R11 million (about US$733,000) in his hand luggage.
Lieutenant Colonel Philani Nkwalase, a spokesman for South Africa’s elite police unit, the Hawks, said: “He was granted bail of R100,000 at Kempton Park Regional Court with stringent conditions. He was ordered to surrender his passport, not to leave South Africa before the finalization of the matter and to report at the nearest police station three times a week.
“The court remanded the matter to July 1, 2021, for further investigation.”
Masinire’s arrest will focus new attention on the security systems at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport as questions mount over how the gold avoided detection.
In October last year, Henrietta Rushwaya, the president of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation was detained at the same airport with over 6kg of gold valued at US$366,000 just before boarding a flight to Dubai.
A court hearing later heard how security officers and airport workers assisted Rushwaya in her smuggling attempt.
Sources on Monday said that Masinire once worked as a driver for Rushwaya, “but quit almost a year ago.”Rushwaya had not answered questions left for her, but one of her associates said: “He’s not her driver. He has an employer, keep digging.”
Two people with links to the gold industry reportedly told online tabloid ZimLive that the owner of the gold was likely Ian Chamunorwa Nyarungwe Haruperi, a Zimbabwean businessman with footprints in Zambia, Dubai and South Africa.
Haruperi, an associate of Zimbabwe-based British property tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten and Krugerrand dealer Frank Buyanga, made headlines in Zambia last year after importing a US$1.5 million Bugatti Veyron which was briefly seized and then returned by authorities who said they were investigated him for money laundering.
Attempts to reach the reclusive Haruperi were unsuccessful, but an associate of his – asked if the gold belonged to the former Hwange Colliery and Rainbow Tourism Group board member – replied tersely: “I don’t think so.”
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 kilogram of gold, whereas private buyers – who inevitably smuggle the gold out of the country – pay up to US$60,000 per kilogram which is later sold in SA under false presences to secure lucrative VAT rebates.