Disjointed State Operations, Lack Of Scanners Behind Surge In Gold Smuggling – Matanga

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By Costa Nkomo

POLICE Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga has admitted the country was losing millions of dollars in foreign currency through mineral leakages due to porous national borders and poor security detection equipment at entry and exit points.

He also blamed poor coordination among state security agencies for fuelling the illicit trade.

The police chief was speaking Thursday when he appeared before the joint parliamentary portfolio committees on Mines and Mining Development; Defence, and Home Affairs.

Also appearing before the same committees was Home Affairs secretary Aaron Nhepera.

The two senior public officials had been called by parliament to explain why Zimbabwe was witnessing a spate in the smuggling of minerals, especially gold.

Last year, Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) President Henrietta Rushwaya was nabbed at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport while attempting to smuggle 6kg of proceeded gold to Dubai.

She was granted bail early this year and the matter remains before the courts.

Two weeks ago, a Zimbabwean man, Tashinga Nyasha Masinire, was arrested at the OR Tambo International Airport while in possession of 23 pieces of gold weighing 14kg. He was also en route to Dubai from Harare.

However, Matanga attributed the incidence of gold smuggling to lack of modern technological equipment to detect criminals smuggling minerals adding, arrests made were mostly done through whistle-blowers.

“It is important to highlight that the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) does not have its own detection equipment such as scanners. In this regard, police can only access detection equipment at the discretion of the owners. Unfortunately, this compromises the detection exercise,” Matanga told the lawmakers.

“The police units manning border posts do not have the modern surveillance equipment and other contemporary technology to counter criminality in the mining sector.”

Matanga admitted Zimbabwe’s borders were highly porous, making it difficult for the police to effectively curb the smuggling of goods.

“Although the organisation has deployments at all border posts as well as patrolling the borderline, (however) due to the porousness of the borders, it is difficult to effectively prevent smuggling of minerals.”

The police boss further shifted the blame on the smuggling of minerals to other government agencies, including Fidelity Printers and Refineries (FPR).

Matanga said the delay by FPR – a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) – to pay gold miners and dealers on time, was forcing them to channel their precious stones to the black market.

“Lack of capacity by Fidelity Printers and Refineries to promptly pay miners and gold dealers upon delivery of gold the reason behind miners and dealers opting for the black market.

“There is (also) a high risk of increased gold leakages due to unfavourable pricing and the payment system by the government. The price and the delays in paying gold dealers by the Fidelity Printers and Refineries drives miners and dealers to the black market where there are attractive prices.”

Matanga pleaded with the government to equip his officers with modern-day technology and resources so as to enhance capacity to curb smuggling.

“At the present moment, we are using a helicopter from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. We cannot fly it all the time because we don’t have enough fuel.

“We need at least three helicopters. Some of the helicopters used by other police officers throughout the world are cheaper than the four-by-four- we are driving on our roads.  We also need drones and four-by-four vehicles.”

Home Affairs’ Nhepera also bemoaned the disjointed security operations at entry and exit points for fuelling the smuggling of goods.

“Under the current set-up, curbing mineral leakages and any other form of smuggling requires a multi-stakeholder approach. There are other entities outside the Ministry (of Home Affairs) who also play key roles.

“The manning of scanners is the responsibility of either the Civil Aviation Authority (CAZ) or the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA). Our two departments, the police, and immigration have a very limited role in this regard.

“It is the hope that the disjointed and the porous arrangement can be addressed once the Zimbabwe Border Post Authority Bill that is being currently processed becomes law,” Nhepera said.