Gold smuggling bust: More arrests looming in gold rich Mufuridzi Game Park

THE arrest on Monday of Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation (ZMF) president Henrietta Rushwaya on allegations of attempting to smuggle gold out of the country has opened a can of worms amid reports a number of bigwigs and government officials are likely to be dragged into the net, Zim Morning Post has established.

This comes on the backdrop of reports that much of the gold in the past seven months that has been smuggled out of the country originated from the rich Mufuridzi game park in Mashonaland Central Province.

As has been reported by the Zim Morning Post, some time in August a fresh gold war erupted in Mufuridzi with government and Zanu PF bigwigs fighting for the control of rich gold Storm mine in the game park.

Ironically, Rushwaya was also sucked into the mine wrangle which was reported to be producing at least 3kg of gold per day. At the material time Rushwaya then absolved herself and said her role was to make sure that ZMF members got the protection they deserve.

The dispute also sucked in several ZimParks officials who facilitated the gold heist in the game park without due process being followed.

Investigations by this publication revealed that a ZimParks resident manager Power Mupunga is in the eye of a storm as he allowed some government officials who were backing John Maungwa to continue mining without appropriate documentation.

Sources said Maungwa and his colleagues were producing 3kg of gold every day for the past seven months until early October when a high court order interdicted him.

As the latest investigations are underway, sources told Zim Morning Post that “…the police has vested interests because we hear the officer commanding the district (Mushawembiri), the officer commanding the province (Mahoya) and the Mt Darwin assistant inspector (Chipunza) are heavily involved in the mining operations.

“The net is closing in on all those who illegally mined in the game park,” the police source told Zim Morning Post.

The Harare Magistrates’ Courts is currently seized with the case in which Rushwaya first and then three others are mired in allegations of attempting to spirit off 6kg of the yellow metal to Dubai.

There are reports also that the Maungwa faction had the support of Mufuridzi Game Parks director general, Fulton Mangwanya, although the director distanced himself from such operatons.

Besides Mupunga, others who are said to act in cahoots with Maungwa at Mufuridzi is a miner only identified as November.

Rushwaya remains in custody following her arrest at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Monday morning as complications arose in her bail application.

The six others, including Ali Mohammed of the car dealership Ali Japan 786, whom Rushwaya allegedly fingered as the source of the four gold bars found in her luggage plus two security services officers, Steven Cherai and Rafius Mupandauya, who may have been involved in the attempt to get Rushwaya through the security checks with her gold and Gift Karanda, have since been arrested.

On Thursday, two senor police officers a superintendent Shoko and a detective chief inspector Chimhungu were also arrested.

Reports on smuggling of gold give credence to Zim Morning Post story published in June where investigations showed that Fidelity Printers and Refinery (FPR), Minerals, Flora and Fauna unit and officers from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) have always been fingered in massive gold heists.

FPR is the country’s sole buyer of gold and silver, and its recent statistics show that deliveries have been declining with the January 2020 figures showing a fall of 27,6 tonnes up from 33,2 tonnes a year earlier.

According to FPR, small scale miners produced the bulk of the metal, accounting for about 63% of output or 17,4 tonnes against big producers, which delivered 10,1 tonnes.

This investigation came at a time when the United Nations reported that Zimbabwe’s gold exports to the United Arab Emirates shot up by 71,9% in 2018 alone.

The UN report revealed that the UAE is now the biggest importer of Zimbabwe’s gold.

According to this report, in 2014 the UAE imported 0,94%, 2015 (1,75%), 2016 (5,29%), 2017 (25,51%) and in 2018 the imports shot to 71,94% (which is US$821 million).