IN recent weeks, we have witnessed the arrest of high-profile individuals implicated in various forms of malfeasance including illegal gold dealing, attempted smuggling, bribery, extortion, defeating the course of justice and abuse of office, among other charges.
Top on the list is the dramatic arrest of Zimbabwe Mining Federation (ZMF) president Henrietta Rushwaya who was on Monday last week nabbed while allegedly attempting to smuggle over 6kg gold worth an estimated US$330 000 to Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, through the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
Her arrest lifted the lid on a suspected gold smuggling ring which sucked in a prominent Harare businessman in the car import business, two Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives, a ZMF official and two senior Zimbabwe Republic Police officers, all of whom were subsequently arrested.
Thanks to our alert and efficient security services officers at RGM Airport, the country has thwarted a massive gold heist.
Elsewhere in Mutare, the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (SACU) in the Office of the President and Cabinet on Thursday arrested prominent gold dealer David Crosby for allegedly flouting laws on trading in the precious metal.
His arrest comes hot on the heels of the arrest of Criminal Investigations Department (CID) director Commissioner Chrispen Charumbira (49) last week on fresh charges of protecting illegal gold dealers, including Crosby.
Charumbira last Saturday appeared before Harare magistrate Ms Vongai Muchuchuti charged with two counts of defeating or obstructing the course of justice and criminal abuse of office by a public officer as defined in Section 174 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act Chapter 9:23.
Allegations against Charumbira are that he interfered with a case where police in Mutare had arrested David Mucheche for illegally possessing 1,3kg gold.
It is the State’s case that in June 2019 at around 5am, police arrested Mucheche in Mutare for violating the Gold Trade Act since he was found with gold without a trading licence.
The police officers took Mucheche to Mutare Central Police Station where they briefed the Officer-in-Charge Detective Inspector Felix Muchaka.
In the midst of the briefing, it is alleged that David Cosby budged into Det Insp Muchaka’s office and handed him a phone which had Charumbira on the opposite end of the line.
It is alleged that Charumbira, over the phone, subsequently ordered the release of Mucheche and gave him back his gold.
This was done before the detectives could verify whether or not Mucheche had a gold trading licence.
Further, the gold had not been recorded in police records as an exhibit while a warned and cautioned statement had not been recorded from Mucheche.
Charumbira was last month arrested for protecting Cosby, who was allegedly illegally trading in gold. The top cop is facing a slew of other charges.
In the Rushwaya case, Harare car dealer, Ali Mohammed, is the alleged owner of the gold that was being smuggled while two senior police officers who investigated the matter have been arraigned for tampering with court documents that incriminate Mohammed.
Two CIO operatives — Stephen Tserai and Raphios Mufandauya — allegedly assisted Rushwaya to smuggle the gold while the ZMF official, Gift Karanda, is also being charged with smuggling and illegal possession of gold.
These high-profile arrests come as the Government cracks down on corruption and all other forms of illicit dealings after identifying graft as the number one enemy to the nation’s aspirations to attain middle income status by 2030.
President Mnangagwa has said there will be no sacred cows in the fight against corruption and warned officials in Government and the ruling Zanu-PF party against a culture of entitlement and name dropping, pledging to descend heavily on such people.
True to his word, the arrest of prominent individuals such as Rushwaya attests to his sincerity.
We applaud honest and diligent security services officers for carrying out their duties without fear or favour and in the process saving the country a lot of money in potential lost revenue.
The involvement of members of the security services in such cases points to a bigger problem within the country’s law enforcement agencies enjoining Government to weed out the bad apples.
While the suspects remain innocent until proven guilty, the lofty positions they occupy and the gravity of the allegations they face tarnish the image of the organisations they work for and by extension the Government and nation of Zimbabwe.
Already, by virtue of her position as ZMF president, Rushwaya’s case has attracted international scrutiny with detractors of Zimbabwe such as the United Kingdom going as far as debating the matter in its Upper House of Parliament — the Lords.
Of course, this is unacceptable since Zimbabwe is no longer a British colony but the damage to the country’s image is irreparable.
Similarly, Zimbabweans expect better from senior police officers entrusted with enforcing the law.
Who will guard the guards, they would be forgiven for asking?
Zimbabwe is losing millions of dollars annually through illicit gold dealings with a large consignment of the yellow metal leaving the country through our porous borders.
If senior police officers are complicit in smuggling of gold, then God forbid, we are doomed.
We therefore call on the Government to redouble efforts to curb smuggling of precious minerals through ensuring that all our gold, diamonds and other metals are accounted for.
President Mnangagwa has declared zero tolerance to corruption and his Government has put in place measures to stop the dastardly vice.
However, it appears he is being let down by a few greedy individuals within the system who are on a selfish agenda to enrich themselves at the expense of the nation.
Our courts should deal ruthlessly with such malcontents by passing deterrent sentences for such economic crimes.
We also believe more can be done to bring down these gold smuggling cartels because most of the actors are known.
These syndicates do not operate in a vacuum and some of them claim to be untouchable due to their so-called connections to top Government officials but the majority are plain criminals who thrive on name dropping to evade arrest.
We thus condemn in the strongest terms, the practice of name dropping which has synonymous with criminals caught with their pants down.
President Mnangagwa, his family and other senior Government officials’ names have been used by people to advance their nefarious agendas and the President has warned such characters against abusing his name.
Perhaps it is time such characters are made an example of through arrests and prosecution.