ANTI-corruption watchdog Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) has said the government should expeditiously enact legislation that protects whistleblowers, who lift the lid on massive corruption cases that have prejudiced the country of potential revenue.
This comes in the wake of the ongoing trial of suspended Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president Henrietta Rushwaya who was arrested at the Robert Mugabe International Airport as she attempted to smuggle a 6kg gold contraband to Dubai. The gold was worth an estimated US$330 000.
TIZ senior legal officer Muchaneta Mundopa told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that bolstering security systems at the country’s entry points, as well as crafting legislation that protects whistleblowers would curtail corruption syndicates from smuggling precious minerals.
She said: “Zacc in terms of Section 255(h) of the Constitution must carry out a risk assessment of corruption in the mining sector so as to advise government on how to mitigate against the same. However, the success of these recommendations also hinges upon political will to adopt these recommendations.
“There is also a need to capacitate border and airport security with equipment for detection of illicit criminal activities involving our minerals. It is also important to enact the whistleblower protection legislation in order to protect whistleblowers who report and expose cases of corruption and criminal syndicates.”
Citing the ongoing trial of Rushwaya, Mundopa said efforts to tackle graft would only yield desired results if undue influence is not exerted on the judiciary.
“All three arms of government must respect the doctrine of separation of powers. This entails non-interference in the functions of the other. The executive must not interfere with the judiciary as it handles corruption cases regardless of who is involved,” she said.
“The judiciary is bound to exercise its mandate in an impartial manner without fear or favour. Those investigating and handling cases of corruption in the mining sector particularly the Rushwaya case must be allowed to execute their mandates freely.”
With Zimbabwe angling to grow its mining sector into a US$12 billion industry by 2023, Mundopa said, the rampant smuggling of precious minerals through the country’s entry points would derail the plan.
She said bolstering the security apparatus at the country’s entry points would mitigate the rampant smuggling of minerals.
“From the US$12 billion mining economy strategic road map presented by the Minister of Mines, it is envisaged that at least 34% of that figure will be realised through gold exports, that is US$4 billion. Therefore, already the smuggling of gold compromises the achievement of the ambitious project. A lot of gold is being lost through smuggling. Already from the Rushwaya case the country could have lost US$330 000,” she said.
“The Henrietta case is just one of the cases that have been exposed, however we believe that smuggling of gold is taking place at alarming levels. What is sad is that public officials are aware of the extent of the problem as was highlighted by the Minister of Finance in August this year where he said at least US$100 million worth of gold is lost through smuggling every month.
“Now if you do the maths you can already see how this will affect the attainment of the US$12 billion mining economy. Whilst the project itself is noble, it becomes ambitious if the fundamentals pertaining to transparency and accountability in the mining sector are not addressed. For example, what measures have been taken by the government to ensure that the borders/airports are not porous?”
Mundopa said capacitating anti-corruption institutions would add impetus to the fight against graft.
She said: “Firstly, the government must showcase political will to fight corruption not just in the mining sector but in all sectors of the economy as a whole. This needs to go beyond rhetoric and setting up laws and institutions to fight corruption.
“We need to see the laws taking effect. The growing culture of impunity where politically exposed persons or political elites accused of corruption are given preferential treatment must come to an end.”