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No diamond detecting machine to stop smuggling at Zim’s main airport – MPs told

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By Anna Chibamu 


OFFICIALS at the Robert Mugabe International Airport have revealed that there is no diamond detecting machine to curb leakages of the mineral.

During a briefing to the Defence, Home Affairs and Security Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Monday, Chief Aviation Security Officer, Gilbert Chimoto, told the committee that the airport’s human resource was the biggest challenge and had become a menace.

“The challenge we have is the insider threat. This has become a menace because the workers know how to circumvent the security system,” Chimoto said, adding that minerals needed to be detected before going through the security system.

“This should be done to enhance our security, leaving us focusing on our mandate. Each entity has to develop an insider program to deal with insider menace, which has affected all sectors even the world over.”

Chimoto however, said the airport also needed some equipment such as explosive trace detectors (ETDs) which can detect narcotics, perimeter kits that can alert officers if someone enters restricted areas, ex-ray machines, computed thermography and basic mineral-weighing machines to improve aviation security.

Committee member and Zanu PF Chiredzi South MP Callisto Gwanetsa, queried the safety of the country’s airspace considering that there were eight airports and airstrips countrywide, which could be the main mineral leakage ports.

“How safe is our air space vis-a-vis leakages? The country has 8 airports and airstrips in national parks and rural areas, which could be the ones being used as bases for mineral leakages. How safe is our airspace in terms of transportation of these minerals in terms of leakages?” Gwanetsa said.

Defence Committee chairman Levi Miyhlome expressed concern that minerals like gold and diamonds were being siphoned outside the country through ports of entry or exit.

“Recent media reports pointed to loopholes at ports of entry or points of extraction and processing. Minerals are being siphoned out of the country, lining pockets of a few individuals, said the MP.

“We know that there have been negative reports or incidents at this airport. We want to satisfy ourselves that the security system and working relationships at this airport satisfy the best expected standards.

In response, Robert Mugabe lnternational Airport CEO  Tawanda Gusha, admitted that the reports of leakages were there.

“We have had several negative reports of leakages, but we do have systems in place to safeguard those leakages. We also have a multi-stakeholder system in place,” said Gusha.

Director Aviation Security, Laxman Moyo chipped in, explaining the two reported incidents where gold was intercepted at OR Tambo Airport in South Africa and at RG International Airport.

“The two incidents were unfortunate, but the one at our airport was a test of our security system equipment because it led to the arrest of the culprit who tried to smuggle the gold mineral,” Moyo said.

Legislators had visited the RG International Airport on a fact-finding discussion with security from production to marketing on leakages of minerals, focusing on gold, diamond and platinum.

The airport is currently undergoing redevelopment in a US$153 million projected funded by the Chinese government.

When completed, capacity will to increase to 6 million people per annum from the current 2.5 million.

The project is set to add a new international terminal building and aprons, four new bridges, a secondary radar system, a VVIP pavilion, an airfield ground lighting and communication system, among other things.