A Pakistani national, Ali Mohammed, is battling for his freedom from remand prison after being named by suspended Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya as the owner of four gold bars that are part of a raging US$330,000 gold smuggling scandal.
Rushwaya told police, upon her arrest at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Monday, that she was given four gold bars by a person she identified as Ali.
Mohammed has denied ownership of the gold, saying his operations are legitimate. The businessman, who runs car import firm Ali Japan 786 and is a holder of a gold trading permit, said he was at home playing with his children when Rushwaya was arrested.
However, police proceeded to arrest him on the strength of Rushwaya’s allegations.
Rushwaya’s associate, Gift Karanda, who was also arrested, implicated First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and her twin son, Collins as the owners of the gold.
The allegations against the First Lady were repeated by prosecutors in court on Friday.
Prosecutors told the court that on discovering that Rushwaya had been intercepted, Karanda came and warned immigration and police officers that the gold recovered from Rushwaya belonged to the First Lady and her son Collins.
Under increasing public pressure from the scandal which is entering its second week, Mrs Mnangagwa issued a statement Sunday demanding the police issue a statement absolving her and her son of any wrongdoing.
“I have no dealings nor involvement with Miss Henrietta Rushwaya of any illegal kind. I am challenging the Police through their relevant office to issue a statement,” she said.
“…it pains me that my son who is hard working and an obedient son, is being attacked for no reason other than being a member of the first family.”
Police spokesperson Paul Nyathi quickly obliged and issued a statement, saying investigations had found the allegations by Karanda implicating Mrs Mnangagwa and her son were false.
“Comprehensive investigations have proved that the statement by Gift Karanda was false and malicious,” the statement read.
Police did not disclose the nature of those investigations.
The case has come under intense public scrutiny, with police accused of protecting Mrs Mnangagwa.
Exiled former Higher Education deputy minister Dr Godfrey Gandawa waded in Wednesday evening, accusing police of double standards in their handling of the case.
“By exonerating Auxilia Mnangagwa, dismissing the allegations by Gift Karanda that she was the owner of 6kgs of gold that was in Rushwaya’s possession, the police have exposed the double standards that characterise our law enforcement,” Gandawa said in a series of tweets.
“The police quickly arrested Ali Mohammed, on the strength of allegations by Rushwaya, yet for some unexplained reason, the allegations against the First Lady are being dismissed. Why would the police treat two citizens differently, when the circumstances are identical?
“Auxilia Mnangagwa does not enjoy immunity. If it is police standard to investigate before arresting, that should be extended to all citizens. Ali was arrested immediately after Rushwaya named him. If that too is police standard, then the same should be extended to Auxilia.”
Central Intelligence operatives Stephen Tserayi and Rafios Mufandauya, who are jointly charged in the matter, faced accusations of criminally abusing their offices as security agents by helping Rushwaya evade security checks by taking her through the diplomatic bay and switching off CCTV cameras, among other actions.
Tserayi is part of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s security detail and was suspended after his involvement in the scandal spilled into the public domain.
“On discovering that the three had been intercepted, accused four (Karanda) came and advised immigration and police officers that the gold recovered from Henrietta Rushwaya