The arrest of a Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operative last week in connection with the 13kg of gold that was smuggled through the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport points to the existence of sophisticated syndicates that are milking Zimbabwe of its resources.
Chamakandiona Nyahunda is accused of facilitating the smuggling of the gold worth
US$783 000 by one Tashinga Nyasha Masinire, who was caught on arrival at South Africa’s OR Tambo International Airport.
Masinire avoided all the security checks at the country’s main airport, only for him to be caught by authorities in the neighbouring country.
It is impossible that Masinire, whose last known job was as driver for the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF), was acting alone.
The quantities involved and what it takes to go through the airport security checks with such contraband undetected cannot be done by amateurs.
The smuggling puzzle was partially solved on Friday when Nyahunda appeared before a Harare magistrate charged with abusing his position after he allegedly carried gold on behalf of Masinire and handed it over in the final waiting area at the airport.
Masinire also appeared in a South African court where he was remanded out of custody on
R100 000 bail on charges of smuggling and possessing gold without a licence.
If Zimbabwean investigators are serious about accounting for the syndicate, they now need to establish who paid for the suspected smuggler’s bail.
That way they will get to the masterminds behind the smuggling racket that has made the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport its playground.
One of the investigating officers in Nyahunda’s case told the court that: “We are dealing with a complicated syndicate involving a huge amount of gold and given that we have not fully accounted for the members of the syndicate, the country will continue losing millions of dollars through smuggling.”
The courts are already dealing with a case involving ZMF president Henrietta Rushwaya, who was on October 26 last year caught at the same airport allegedly trying to smuggle out of the country 6kg of gold to Dubai.
Again some state security agents were allegedly identified as part of the syndicate that tried to help Rushwaya to avoid detection at the airport.
The government-owned Fidelity Printers and Refiners says Zimbabwe could have lost US$1, 67 billion of gold last year through smuggling.
This is huge money for a country that is perennially struggling to feed its own people and ensure access to health for its most vulnerable citizens.
The latest gold smuggling case is an opportunity for the authorities to pull the plug on the syndicates behind the economic sabotage once and for all.