Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation (ZMF) president, Henrietta Rushwaya, got a R95 000 fine and a suspended 18-month sentence for attempting to smuggle 6kg of gold to the United Arab Emirates in 2020.
- Henrietta Rushwaya, the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation boss, was arrested in 2020 for trying to smuggle 6kg of gold to the UAE.
- On Wednesday, she got off with a R95 000 fine and a suspended sentence.
- Zimbabwe’s gold smuggling racket is estimated to be worth R85.5 billion a year.
The politically connected Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation (ZMF) president, Henrietta Rushwaya, got away with a R95 000 fine and a suspended 18-month sentence for attempting to smuggle 6kg of gold, worth an estimated R6.2 million, to the United Arab Emirates in 2020.
Harare High Court Judge Pisirayi Kwenda said he took into account that “she has no previous convictions” and that “there is no evidence to show that this offence was committed as part of an organised crime”.
In a separate incident, her former driver, Tashinga Nyasha Masinire, was arrested by members of the Hawks’ serious organised crime investigation unit at the OR Tambo International Airport on arrival in May 2021.
He had smuggled three gold bars concealed in a box of whisky.
He was sentenced in Johannesburg to a fine of R40 000 or two years’ imprisonment.
But the wheels of justice for Rushwaya, a central figure in the gold smuggling exposé Gold Mafia, a four-part series by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit), moved relatively slowly.
During her trial, she said she picked up the wrong bag, which she tried to smuggle via the VIP section of the Harare International Airport.
Some considered her sentence, handed down almost three years later, to be mild.
Farai Maguwo, the executive director at the Centre for Natural Resource Governance, saw it as an indicator that “smuggling of minerals is a petty crime in Zimbabwe”.
The ruling is quite sad in a country where mineral smuggling is now the biggest business for the ruling elites. The ruling is an incentive for smuggling; it will be a major reference in future judgments.
“There is also injustice. The same courts have sentenced poor Zimbabweans to jail for periods ranging from two to five years for merely possessing half a gram of gold they had not stolen from anyone,” he said.
Harsher sentences have been handed out in the past for minor offences related to gold and other minerals.
In 2013, two gold panners, Benson Muchemanyama and Welldone Darlington Ncube, were found with varying sizes of alluvial gold and sentenced to five-year jail terms each for possession of gold without mining or prospecting licences.
In 2017, a 23-year-old sex worker, Nicola Moyo was jailed for five years for possessing 0.22g of gold worth around R3.
Smuggling is a more serious offence compared to illegal possession.
James Ray Tudhope was arrested in 2015 for allegedly attempting to smuggle gold worth R19 million to Botswana.
He was granted bail of R38 000, and he’s been on the run since then.
Zimbabwe’s gold smuggling racket is estimated to be worth R85.5 billion per year.
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