HomeOpinion & AnalysisGold smuggling syndicates a threat to mining development

Gold smuggling syndicates a threat to mining development

GREEN Governance Zimbabwe is deeply concerned by media reports that a Zimbabwean man was caught while attempting to smuggled gold via neighbouring South Africa.

Preliminary reports state that the 33-year-old man was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Saturday May 8, 2021 with smuggled gold worth $11 million
(US$730 000).

South Africa’s elite police unit, the Hawks, released a brief statement that the suspect, Tashinga Nyasha Masinire, had pieces of gold without the requisite licence to carry nor declare to
officials.

This latest case brings into context reports by government, in particular Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe, that at least US$100 million worth of gold is smuggled outside the country on a monthly basis.

Recently, the arrest of a high-profile figure Henrietta Rushwaya, the Zimbabwe Miners Federation president, points to a worrying trend of pilferage and smuggling of gold by syndicates.

It is also telling that this cache was detected outside our borders. It proves beyond reasonable doubt that the syndicates work in cahoots with the security sector and politicians in their smuggling excursions.

Furthermore, Zimbabwean borders are porous and are facilitating the smuggling of mineral wealth at a time when the country is facing liquidity challenges, hyperinflation, high levels of unemployment and informality.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which led to various lockdowns, has had a delibilating impact on millions of impoverished, vulnerable and informal workers, who could not conduct business during that time.

Women and children still remain vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic, compounding the environmental costs thrust upon resource-rich communities as a result of natural resource extraction activities.

We call upon government, in light of this constitutional mandate, to institute a commission of inquiry into the rampant levels of smuggling of minerals from gold to diamonds via neighbouring countries.

It is our conviction that this can only be the tip of an iceberg, which can be fully understood if government expends resources towards fighting to reduce smuggling, which is a form of illicit financial flows.

Enforcement of national laws is a sacrosanct duty that security personnel, tax officials and immigration officials must assume with requisite importance to guard jealously our national wealth.

In this respect, government must ensure that it remunerates its workers adequately to dissuade them from taking bribes or conniving with criminal elements to smuggle gold and other precious minerals.

This pervasive trend of looting of national wealth puts paid to talk of the country achieving an upper-middle income status by 2030 as the looted natural resources or rents from their exploitation must contribute to economic development.

We call on government to collaborate with civil society partners to create joint-monitoring mechanisms, develop internal capacity of its security arms and invest in airport and border surveillance equipment.

The amendment of the Mines and Minerals Act is also long overdue and must be accelerated to ensure that the sector has binding legislation to make sure that our finite resources form part of our sovereign wealth for future generations.

In the same manner, Zimbabwe must also advance progressive policies which embody the principles of the African Mining Vision to ensure that minerals are not only mined and exported in raw form, but are valued-added locally.

We need to take a cue from Tanzania, which has successfully managed to set up a world standard gold processing plant.

Joining the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative is another option that government may consider to promote responsible investment, transparent and accountable mining operations.

Nyasha Frank Mpahlo,

Green Governance Zimbabwe

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