Security chiefs move to cancel gold buying licenses
Zimbabwe’s security chiefs last week held a high-level meeting to map a way forward in the wake of massive smuggling of precious minerals, which has seen the country losing close to US$2 billion through illicit financial flows of diamonds and gold, this year alone, the Zim Morning Post can report.
According to sources close to the Monday indaba, the agenda of the meeting came hard on the heels of the alleged October 26 Henrietta Rushwaya Dubai gold heist.
Rushwaya and six others were last week implicated in attempts to smuggle at least 6kg of gold through the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport to Dubai.
In attendance at the Monday meeting was President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, VP Kembo Mohadi and State Security minister Owen Ncube.
Among those present on the security sector were Defence Forces Commander, General Valerio Sibanda, Zimbabwe National Army Commander, Lieutenant General Edzai Chimonyo, Air Force of Zimbabwe, Air Marshall Elson Moyo and Central Intelligence Organisation Director-General, Isaac Moyo.
Sources told the Zim Morning Post that smuggling of both gold and diamonds has reached unprecedented levels prompting the security chiefs to hold a crisis meeting.
“In a no-holds-barred-meeting, the security chiefs made it clear that smuggling has become a security threat and if not addressed it may further cripple the economy which is already on its knees,” said the source.
“Investigations which were presented in the meeting point to a situation where hundreds of people are now holders of gold buying licenses issued by Fidelity Printers and Refiners.”
“Several people who have been found in possession of gold quickly produce these gold buying licences and are eventually set free,” said the source.
The source also told this publication that the amount of gold deliveries to Fidelity has significantly dropped yet there are hundreds of agents purporting to be mopping gold around the country on behalf of Fidelity.
According to the Zim Morning Post source, the country’s highest security referral body agreed to cancel all gem stone licenses, particularly those of gold and diamonds.
“A decision has already been arrived at. In the coming weeks several licences will be cancelled and stakeholders will be vetted before another certificate is issued,” the source said.
Zim Morning Post understands that all gem stones, particularly gold and diamonds, would now be licensed under very strict conditions.
In an interview with Zim Morning Post Gold Miners Association of Zimbabwe chief executive Irvine Chinyenze said the country lost gold ranging between 25 tonnes and 30 tonnes as at end of October to smuggling.
“A report from South Africa states that in their system they received at least 25 tonnes of smuggled gold from Zimbabwe,” Chinyenze said.
“It is difficult to quantify how much Zimbabwe has lost because you cannot quantify an illegality but smuggling is rampant.”
Chinyenze said the only way out is to rectify the problems that are causing miners to opt to smuggle instead of delivering their gold through official means.
“Fidelity has had a fair share of challenges relating to the movement of cash. There are also problems with regards to the pricing regime which is not consistent with what is on the world market. These are variables that cause smuggling,” he said.
Who are the holders of gold buying licences?
Fidelity Printers and Refiners have been issuing dozens of licences to agents who are buying gold on their behalf.
Investigations by this publication revealed that several highly connected individuals and companies are gold buying agents for Fidelity.
“We are not sure how many licences have been issued but Fidelity decentralised its buying activities from Harare to cover all gold producing regions within the country,” the source said.
“Obviously those who were awarded the licences are not the common man like you and me.”
“They got the licences because somehow they have links with powerful people,” the source said.
Heightened security attention on the smuggling of precious minerals is likely to be met with resistance within sections of the ruling elite whose war chests were being funded by proceeds of the illicit activities.