HARARE – Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya is part of a large gold smuggling syndicate also involving members of the security services, a court heard on Wednesday.
The claims were made by prosecutors as the National Prosecuting Authority, which had consented to bail when the 53-year-old first appeared in court on Tuesday, made an unexpected about turn and asked a magistrate to deny her bail.
Rushwaya was arrested at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Monday after allegedly attempting to smuggle 6kg of gold worth US$333,000 on an Emirates flight to Dubai.
The former ZIFA CEO would have been released on bail on Tuesday after prosecutors and the defence agreed on bail of Z$90,000 with stringent conditions, but magistrate Ngoni Nduna insisted on a full bail hearing. He said he wanted to know the details informing the prosecution decision not to oppose bail.
As the hearing began on Wednesday, prosecutor Garudzo Ziyadhuma made an application withdrawing their consent to bail, arguing that they had new information that the smuggling syndicate was bigger than initially thought, requiring further investigation.
“We are withdrawing the consent that we had given earlier,” he said.
Ziyadhuma said there is no law that bars the NPA from withdrawing its consent.
He added: “This is a classic example of organised crime because of the manner in which the execution of the offence was carried out. In brief, what informed the decision to make this application for withdrawal is because when the accused approached the exit point the CCTV in that area was switched off and her clearance (check-in and immigration formalities) took around four minutes from the time she arrived at the airport to the time she was cleared.
“The net of the syndicate is actually wider hence upon taking note of this we have enlarged the scope of investigations and we expect more arrests.”
He said there is also evidence that Rushwaya tried to bribe two detectives who arrested her.
“That has a bearing on determination,” he said.
According to Ziyadhuma, there were also some people who assisted Rushwaya, one of them a Central Intelligence Organisation agent. The prosecution also claims there was another man who misrepresented that he was an aide to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
It was not stated if both men had been arrested, or when they would appear in court.
Rushwaya’s lawyer Tapson Dzvetero opposed the NPA’s application.
He said the Prosecutor General’s concession cannot be given and withdrawn “willy-nilly”.
He said the prosecutors who initially consented should have filed affidavits explaining their reasons for the sudden change.
Said Dzvetero: “In this case, the concession was signed by Mr (Lovack) Masuku (Chief Public Prosecutor) and subsequently by Mr (Michael) Reza. No affidavit has been placed before you (magistrate) on why the concession was made in the first place and what had transpired.”
The lawyer said the state did not provide any evidence to prove that the CCTV was deliberately switched off at the airport, or that his client tried to bribe some police officers and customs staff.
“Also, no information is given as to when the state became aware of this and there is no link that is given as to why that should affect the earlier concession given,” he said.
“There is an allegation that another person impersonated a CIO agent and also the allegation that there is an intelligence officer who has been arrested or is going to be arrested. Again, all these allegations are not substantiated by any facts. The state’s approach leaves one with a sour taste,” he added.
Dzvetero said the developments could only be seen as proof that there was some external interference with the case.
Nduna said he will hand down his ruling on the state’s application to withdraw consent on Friday.
“I appreciate that the issue which seizes the court is the issue of bail which must be determined with utmost urgency. But the urgency aspect of it also requires that the court must have time to look at the issues raised, look at the law, look at the literature. So, I think I need up to Friday morning to deal with the case that has seized the court,” he said.
Reporters waiting outside court said Rushwaya was not in the prison van with other prisoners when it arrived in the morning. At the end of proceedings, the van drove into the cells section where it picked up Rushwaya to prevent photographers waiting outside from getting her picture.