In 2020, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) followed closely the arrest of Henrietta Rushwaya, the President of Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe (RGM) International Airport on allegations of attempting to smuggle about 6kgs of refined gold to Dubai.
Corruption and gold smuggling among other issues have crippled the country’s efforts to leverage on its vast mineral resources and deliver basic services such as education, health and water.In September, 2020, Minister of Home Affairs, Honourable Kazembe Kazembe revealed that Zimbabwe was losing at least US$100 million worth of gold every month through international smuggling rings blaming it on “ porous borders”.The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube lamented that the country is losing significant revenue due to smuggling of gold to mostly the United Arab Emirates and South Africa. Gold is being used as a conduit for money laundering and Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) jeopardising the country’s domestic resource mobilization efforts to deliver quality basic services to the ordinary citizens. The critical question is what are the policy drivers and vulnerabilities that make Zimbabwe’s gold sector susceptible to smuggling and illicit gold trade? More importantly, why does gold smuggling in Zimbabwe often implicate politically exposed persons such as Henrietta Rushwaya. This may, in essence show the manner in which politics and power dynamics are embroiled in gold mining in Zimbabwe.
The system of gold leakages in Zimbabwe is linked to criminality within the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining sector. Massive gold pilferage or leakage are facilitated by a well connected system leveraging on the chaos in the sector and the influence of political actors involved. An unpublished study by ZELA on the ASM sector shows that the sector is now dominated by powerful political actors and senior officials within the security sector. Lack of formalisation of artisanal mining actually mirrors a captured policy process in a way that allows a few to benefit and accumulate wealth from the sector taking advantage of the lack of formalization.The Rushwaya’s gold smuggling story which already is implicating powerful actors including state intelligence officials and politicians appears to be a tip of an iceberg of high-profile criminality and illegality in the mineral resources sector in Zimbabwe. In 2019 the President informed delegates attending an Anti Corruption conference in Harare that Zimbabwe lost gold worth US$60 million through a syndicate of businessmen that clandestinely export precious minerals to Dubai. Again in 2019 the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube indicated Zimbabwe lost 30-34 tonnes of gold due to smuggling to South Africa.
artisanal and small scale gold sector (ASMG) is the major contributor to gold deliveries
and mining generated foreign currency in Zimbabwe.
The informal ecosystem of the gold value chain provides huge incentives for
politically connected players or the elite to easily manipulate artisanal
miners, sponsors, small time dealers and other actors along the supply chain. At
the production and market level of the ASM gold supply chain, the sector appears
captured by smuggling syndicates, with connected elites and politicians seemingly
involved. Lack of political will to formalise the
artisanal gold sector appears to be connected to political interests. Many
reports abound of how the gold sector is linked and controlled by politicians.
The elites and politicians benefit more from an informal sector. CSOs such as ZELA and the PWYP Zimbabwe have been calling for the formalisation of the ASM sector.
However, there is no remarkable progress to talk about on that front. Among key
recommendations that ZELA and other CSOs have been pushing for include the need
to create an enabling legal and policy
environment for ASM sector that allows decriminalisation of ASGM sector
activities, transparency on insuance of licences and improvement in access financing and markets in
Suspension of the Law: The Gold Trade Act
The Rushwaya case also exposes one of the vulnerabilities in the gold trade sector where the provisions of the Gold Trade Act on possession and dealing in gold seems to have been suspended for purposes of promoting artisanal gold mining and deliveries to Fidelity Printers and Refineries. The Gold Trade Act regulates possession and dealing in gold. The act prohibits the possession of gold by unauthorised persons and regulates dealings in gold, detailing the cases in which a person is said to be dealing in or possessing gold legally. Section 3(1) prohibits dealing in or possession of Gold without the required licence. It states that no person shall, either as principal or agent, deal in or possess gold, unless; he is the holder of a licence or permit, or a holder or tributor or holder of an authority, grant or permit issued under the Mines and Minerals Act or an employee or agent of any of the persons mentioned above and is authorized by his employer or principal to deal in or possess gold in the lawful possession of such employer or principal. However, the No questions Asked Policy adopted by Fidelity Printers and Refiners ( FPR) and its ambiguity creates a situation where indiviudals may posses or deliver gold to FPR without validating if the person is a holder of tributor or has a licence or permit to buy gold.
trade and Marketing in Zimbabwe
is important to note that Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR) via the Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe enjoys a monopoly in gold buying, refining and export.
Zimbabwe exports its gold to the world market indirectly through the Rand
Refining in South Africa. The country is unable to sell gold directly to the
international market because it lost its membership to the London Bullion Market
Association (LBMA) in 2008 after failing to meet the minimum production of 10
tonnes per annum to maintain membership. However, Fidelity Printers and
Refiners (FPR) has a policy framework to licence individuals or companies who
want to buy gold on its behalf. This
policy framework is aimed at increasing mobilisation of gold from the ASM
sector. All the gold that licenced
buyers purchase from the ASM sector is supposed to be sold to FPR which is the
sole buyer and exporter of gold. Unless if permission is granted this means all
gold that goes out of the country via any other person or institution outside
FPR is classified as smuggled gold.
unfavourable gold pricing framework is argued to be the key driver of illicit financial and minerals
flows in the gold sector. The FPR took time to bend towards the call by ASM
miners, Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) and other Civil Society
Organisations ( CSOs) such as the Publish
What You Pay (PWYP) Zimbabwe on the need
to realign its gold buying framework to the international market prices. Until
July this year, FPR was buying gold from ASGM at prices which were significantly
below the international market prices thereby creating huge opportunities for arbitrage and smuggling of
gold outside the country. In April, 2020
warned that the country was at a huge risk of revenue loss to smuggling when
the gap between world market prices of
gold and the prices that FPR was offering increased due to COVID-19 induced
increased in demand of gold at the world market. The outbreak of COVID-19 saw
the prices of gold on the international market increasing as investors were
seeking gold as a safe haven due to low returns in US$ denominated securities.
The current liberalised gold buying framework still leaves room for arbitrage
and smuggling of gold because foreign
buyers offers more lucrative prices than what FRP is currently offering. The
inability of FPR to avail in cash to ASG miners’ offers arbitrate opportunities
that big smugglers are pouncing on.
of Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF)
licencing of Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) as a gold buying agent might have
caused the manifestation of increased gold smuggling risks the country is
currently facing. Such a move should have been coupled with close monitoring of
its operations and systems to enhance traceability of gold from the miners to
the market. The attempt to smuggle gold
at RGM by the President of ZMF came a month and half after the institution was
reported to have secured a gold buying licence as FPR’s agent. The question that has become critical to
answer is “ given that the body is dealing with gold trade, how insulated is it
from political capture or smuggling syndicates.
borders with its neighbours are porous and this has resulted in significant
leakages and smuggling of gold, diamonds and other minerals at the airports and
land borders. The Mines and Minerals (Minerals Unit) Regulations of 2008 (SI 82
of 2008) established a Minerals Unit in section 3(1). The Minerals Unit is
supposed to be a crack unit composed of officers from the Ministry of Mines,
the police and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The functions of the Minerals Unit
are stated as assisting miners in preventing the theft of minerals from mining
locations, preventing smuggling of minerals outside Zimbabwe and safeguarding
the mineral resources of Zimbabwe. The Minerals Unit has power to inspect,
enter any mining location, examine or inspect mining operations, examine books,
accounts vouchers, documents, maps and records. In addition, the Minerals Unit
has power to examine security systems at mining locations. In this regard, the
Minerals Unit is empowered to give direction to any miner to improve security
of mining locations to prevent theft of minerals. Further, the Act authorizes the Minerals Unit
to station one or more of its members at premises of any registered mining
locations or at any port of entry or exit to curb smuggling or theft of
minerals. Custom officials are also responsible for ensuring that goods are
declared at the border. However, there are capacity contraints in the
operations of these entities as well as allegations of corruption that results
in smuggling at the boarders. Allegations being raised against state security
officials in the Rushwaya case confirm these challenges.
Diligence and Traceability in the Gold sector
The FPR has a framework to know its
customers as part of its due diligence. However, this system falls short of the
means to promote responsible production
and sourcing in the gold sector. The system lacks production tracking and
monitoring and this increases the
chances of gold leakages, illicit trade and criminality. In many countries
gold mining is associated with violence
and illicit trade along the value chains. The current No questions Asked Policy
does not give room for all interrogation
and questioning around sourcing of gold. There is still lack of systems to
detect and measure risks of human rights
violations and illicit gold trade therefore there is no way of mitigating these
risks along the whole gold supply chain. The
Rushwaya attempt to smuggle gold came nearly a week after the Ministry of Mines and Mining
Development announced that ZMF had signed several partnership deals with a
suspicious private company, Ali Mohammend of Ali Japan 786.
The company is being implicated in the Henrietta Rushwaya’s smuggling allegations.
One wonders if FPR and the Government conducts due diligence on private
companies to ensure that these companies are not associated with criminal
activities which may taint the gold supply chain and undermine the
marketability of gold coming from Zimbabwe.
of corruption, illicit trade and criminality has been compounded by the lack of
mechanisms to trace gold from its production until it leaves the country. Treceability measures on gold helps to curb
criminal elements and illicit trade in
the gold supply chain as information such as the exact source of gold, who the
holder of the gold buying licence and
the refiner of gold is and the amount of taxes that is paid on gold that leaves
the country can be collected and analysed .
of smuggled gold
is not a big surprise that the destination of gold that Rushwaya attempted to
smuggle was Dubai. Dubai has a huge appetite for smuggled gold. A research released by IMPACT Transform in
2019 reveals that Dubai and India are two key recipients of gold that is smuggled.
The research has shown that Due Diligence
on gold imports carried out by Indian customs officials and industry actions is negligible. Dubai has
been found to be an intermediary between illicit or conflict gold that is
sourced from African countries, especially from the Great Lakes Region and
exported to India. Trade statistics indicate that a significant portion of gold
leaving Dubai makes its way to India, the biggest jewellery manufacturing
centre in the world.
of Gold Policy
There is no gold policy in Zimbabwe. The policy changes
that the government comes up with ( such as the RBZ’s No Questions Asked
Policy) are not hinged on a clear government policy framework on exploration
production, beneficiation, marketing and
management of gold in Zimbabwe and this often creates a lot of policy reversals
and inconsistencies. There is no clarity
at the moment with regards to government’s policy direction on accountability
of gold including measures to curb criminality and illicit gold trade within
the No Questions Asked Policy. Furthermore, there is no policy framework
on who should invest in the gold value
chain and models of partnerships within the sector. These are some of the key
issues that the Zimbabwe’s Gold Policy should address.
What needs to be done
Government must develop a Gold Policy
that provides policy direction on production, management and marketing of gold
including creating scope for responsible gold production and sourcing systems
The government must consider revising
its No Questions Asked Policy to promote
responsible sourcing in the gold sector
must develop or enhance its systems on gold production tracking and monitoring to enhance responsible gold
There is a need for government to use
advanced technology to monitor airports and boarders to ensure smuggling of
gold and other minerals out of the country is curbed.
Custom officials, ZRP minerals unit and
airlines need to improve their systems
in identifying risks, vulnerabilities
and exposure to illicit financial and
There is need for the country to
improve transparency and accountability measures in the mining sector to curb
corruption and state capture in the mining sector
Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) should
be closely monitored. There is need for regulations or laws that govern its operations
There is need for government to speed
up the formalisation of the ASGM sector
Zimbabwe should adopt OECD Due
diligence on responsible mineral supply
chains or borrow some of the Due
Diligence standards in the gold supply chain and incorporate them into the
local legislative framework to ensure responsible and conflict sensitive due
diligence in the gold supply chain. Of particular importance is the need to
ensure gold traceability. Corruption
and smuggling of gold can be further curbed through the introduction of
traceability measures within the gold mining sector whereby minerals are traced
from their origin up to the end user.
government must conduct due diligence of the companies or individuals that
apply for licences or seek to partner with government in gold trade. This will
help to weed out companies that maybe masquerading as genuine
investors in the gold supply chain.
is need to revoke the trading licences of individuals and companies found to be
involved in illicit gold trade. Information on the de-listed individuals and
companies involved in illicit trade must be shared widely
There is need for importers of gold to
enhance measures to curb illicit gold trade and criminality through verification
of certificates of origin or export
permits , custom clearance documents
including tax receipts in the
country of exports.