THE ZRP Minerals Control Unit has admitted that the Zimbabwe’s borders are porous enough for mineral looters to thrive in their business of plundering the country’s natural resources, adding that police officers must be paid so they are not compromised.
The Unit’s current and past bosses, who presented oral evidence before the parliamentary mines committee chaired by Temba Mliswa on Monday, said it was difficult to curb minerals looting.
Rabson Mpofu, a retired former unit boss, said, “Yes there are leakages,” adding, “Once you are dealing with such high value minerals, it also means that the police who are deployed also need to be paid so that they are not compromised.
“The minerals unit as an entity should be fully funded. Actually to me it’s supposed to be the minerals unit but there is this border control aspect, it indicates added responsibilities and overstretch the responsibilities of the unit.
“If you look at border aspect, you find they actually deal with flora, fauna and poaching. It tends to overstretch the unit which doesn’t have resources. They are not highly mobile, they do not have T and S allowances for them to be deployed.”
Mpofu said the situation is worsened the underfunding to the unit which is supposed to apprehend well-resourced smugglers.
“When you are dealing with minerals, you are dealing with highly organised syndicates within the country with outside linkages.
“Against a handicapped unit which does not even have reliable motor vehicles to patrol, money to pay informers for example intelligence on people who may bring say cars with specialized compartments,” he said.
In some countries, the unit is given five percent of the recovered minerals.
One of the most porous border mentioned is Beitbridge were smugglers offload the minerals in South Africa for ready cash and better prices than Fidelity Printers.
Mpofu said the laws also make it hard to convict anyone found in possession of such precious minerals.
“You would arrest somebody with say 8 kgs of gold starched in the fuel tank of his car, has just has had his passport stamped by the immigration at the border then arrest him when about to leave, at the end of the day that person is acquitted,” he said.
“Our laws are fraught, they allude to legal possession, that person can claim that your manager was using the car previously. We have to prove that you knew you had the diamonds in your car.”
Statistics provided by unit boss Erasmus Makodza indicate that 4, 435 carats of diamonds and 10, 5 kilograms of gold were recovered from smugglers while 30, 8 kilograms of gold are still held as evidence.
They said the cases also take too long to conclude in the country’s courts.
The bosses also said frequent transfers of heads if the unit also affect the organisation’s effectiveness as there are constantly new managers trying to get grip on how the syndicates operate.