BY MOSES MATENGA
ZIMBABWE’S lax security at ports of entry and airports has come under spotlight again after Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president Henrietta Rushwaya’s ex-aide was arrested at the OR Tambo International Airport in South Africa while attempting to smuggle gold worth over US$780 000.
The suspect, Tashinga Nyasha Masinire (33), was yesterday granted R100 000 bail coupled with stringent reporting conditions by a Kempton Park regional magistrate in Gauteng province.
He was ordered to surrender his passport, not to leave South Africa before the finalisation of the matter and to report at the nearest police station three times a week.
The matter was remanded to July 1, 2021.
The case has opened a Pandora’s box with South Africa’s Hawks Serious Organised Crime Investigation team seeking to uncover the source of the 23 gold bars worth R11 million found in Masinire’s hand luggage, as well as establish how he evaded security checks at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare.
Preliminary investigations by the Hawks, authorities said, revealed that the suspect travelled from Harare to Johannesburg.
Rushwaya, who in October last year was nabbed under similar circumstances after being found in possession of 6kg of gold worth US$366 000 at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, yesterday distanced herself from Masinire saying he resigned from ZMF last year.
“For the record, he stopped working for the Zimbabwe Miners Federation as a driver in August 2020 and for people now to be seen or wanting to associate him with the federation or myself in particular is a bit unfortunate,” Rushwaya, whose case is still before the courts, said.
“He tendered his resignation and it will be folly for people to want to attach him to this organisation or to my persona as the president. As the federation president, I clearly and categorically state that Tashinga was no longer an employee and neither was he still my driver, and so any action to be taken against him should not be in any way associated with us,” she added.
According to a report by a global research group, Zimbabwe is losing at least $1,5 billion a year through smuggling of the yellow metal, mainly to traders in Dubai.
Smuggling is attractive for many gold dealers in Zimbabwe because of uncompetitive gold prices offered by the government’s sole gold buyer, Fidelity Printers and Refiners.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe subsidiary pays US$44 000 for a kilogramme of gold, whereas private buyers — who smuggle the gold out of the country — pay up to US$60 000 per kilogramme.