FRETTING like a cat on a hot tin roof as law enforcement agencies closed in on her in a dramatic public spectacle now a monkey on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s back, suspended Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation (ZMF) boss Henrietta Rushwaya frantically tried to call First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa in vain.
According to an online news platform, The News Hawks, witnesses and other well-placed sources told said, as police moved in to strike and bust the smuggling racket involving 6kg of gold – with 99.99% purity levels – Rushwaya anxiously made several calls, watching with horror her illicit bid to salt away bullion worth at least US$330 000 collapse.
As a result of the quality of the gold, a new problem has now arisen in court as to where it came from. Investigators say the gold could only have been taken from the state-run Fidelity Printers and Refiners (Pvt) Ltd, a bullion buying company owned by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
Fidelity Printers has capacity to refine gold to purity levels of 99.5% or more. Rushwaya’s gold was of the highest quality – 99.99% – purity pointing to a wider network involving Fidelity, ZMF and security agents, as well as their political handlers.
Fidelity Printers public relations officer Xelisani Moyo declined to comment over the phone.
In a well-calculated attempt to hide the gold heist, Rushwaya, with the help of state and airport security, was given safe passage after the closed-circuit television system (CCTV) had already been switched off.
“What happened was that after airport security and police had intercepted the gold, Rushwaya started fretting and moving up and down making calls. Among several people she called, she dialled the First Lady, but she didn’t answer,” a source close to Rushwaya said.
“Apparently at that time President Mnangagwa and the First Lady were not yet aware of what was happening. CIO Director-General Isaac Moyo and his agents were already in the picture, trying to manage the situation. They tried to reach Mnangagwa, but it took a while for them to find him. Rushwaya never found Auxillia. So those delays changed the course of events.”
The source said events moved too fast for Mnangagwa’s people to stop the drama.
“By the time Moyo spoke to Mnangagwa, they were already behind the situation as events were moving too fast, even if they still had a fighting chance to act to protect the President. Auxillia never got an opportunity to return Rushwaya’s call.
“There was a hive of activity to contain the situation. The CIO bosses were sweating on how to protect the President from the fallout of the well-coordinated bust involving police, CID and military intelligence.
“Intelligence needed to do that for two reasons: they had immediately picked that Auxillia and her son Collins were implicated by Karanda upon arriving at the airport after an urgent call from Rushwaya and there was also Stephen Tserayi, a CIO operative, involved.
“So it was an emergency and it was thus critical for Moyo and his team to act swiftly to protect their ultimate boss: Mnangagwa. State Security Minister Mudha (Owen Ncube), who is close to Mnangagwa, was also anxious about the situation.”
At that stage, the clumsy attempt – to be followed by a series of sequenced and related actions playing out behind the scenes and in the public domain to cover up the smuggling scandal which had gone horribly wrong – had started.
Rushwaya called the First Lady and Karanda, one of the arrested suspects, as she is close to them. She is related to the Mnangagwa family, despite official attempts to distance the President from her now.
That is one way in which officials and Mnangagwa’s supporters are trying to create a buffer between the President and Rushwaya to avoid him becoming collateral damage.
But the digital footprint of their printed remarks in the public record is betraying them.
When Gogo Mary Rushwaya, mother to Martin Rushwaya who is currently deputy chief secretary for administration and finance in the Office of the President and Cabinet, died last year, Mnangagwa attended the funeral at Number 4 Glen Lorne Drive in Glen Lorne suburb, Harare.
It was publicly said there that the families are related.
Gogo Rushwaya was Henrietta’s aunt, making the arrested gold dealer a cousin to Martin, former Ministry of Defence permanent secretary.
Sources said it was initially not clear to the police whether Karanda implicated Auxillia and Collins as name-dropping in a bid to help Rushwaya wriggle out or he was simply telling the truth.
But his statement was all the same initially recorded by police. It was supposed to form part of the docket from which the suspects are facing smuggling, criminal abuse of office and attempting to defeat the course of justice charges.
However, after realising that they had created an even bigger crisis by bringing Auxillia and her son’s names into the racket, they retreated and made frantic efforts to delete the record. But it was too late.
Sources said political pressure was at that point irresistibly mounting to protect them.
However, CID and military intelligence agents who were involved were working behind the scenes to ensure that the suspects did not wriggle out and tamper with the record. In the end, they managed to delete names.
Chief Inspector Michael Chibaya from Harare CID Law and Order told magistrate Ngoni Nduna this week during a bail hearing that Tserayi and his accomplices had demanded that Auxillia and Collins’ names be deleted.
While that was happening, Moyo, after talking to Mnangagwa, moved swiftly to boot out Tserayi to create a safe distance between the President and the scandal.
“Tserayi was at the airport and after the gold smuggling drama he returned to work in town and, as you know, he worked with the President’s close security unit. But that evening, last week on Monday, he was told that Mnangagwa and Moyo don’t want to see him anywhere near the President. He was told to go away. There was no due process followed,” a top security source said.
“The following day, he was arrested, out of fury and to create plausible deniability. When his phone went offline around midday on Tuesday last week, we knew he was gone.”
As these events were unfolding, The NewsHawks was in action. It was the first media platform to post on Twitter Rushwaya’s arrest after a source close to Mnangagwa’s family had sent in a tip, and later details.
Soon after getting a tip, The NewsHawks swung into action and called police to verify. Police asked for time to check, but instead of coming back with an answer, they posted their statement on Twitter, confirming Rishwaya’s arrest. At that point The NewsHawks broke the story. Other media platforms immediately followed. The NewsHawks then went on to report Tserayi’s quick removal on Tuesday and a day later, Wednesday, his arrest.
After their names has been deleted from the record, Auxillia moved to distance herself and Collins from the smuggling case.
“I do not engage in illegal narrow-minded pursuits like gold smuggling,” she said on social media.
Auxillia then publicly challenged police to issue a statement on the matter.
“I have no dealings nor involvement with Miss Henrietta Rushwaya of any illegal kind. I am challenging the police through their relevant office to issue a statement,” she said.
Police sources said this was almost certainly political interference and an obstruction of the course of justice.
Yet police obliged.
But Chibaya said police had not even interviewed Auxillia and Collins due to protocol hurdles.
When The NewsHawks yesterday asked Nyathi to explain how the First Lady and her son’s names disappeared from the dockets, he said: “With all due respect, that case is now before the courts, so it is now sub judice for the police to comment on it.”
The brazen cover-up continued with statements from the ruling Zanu PF and Information permanent secretary issued to protect Mnangagwa’s family.
“Following the arrests, government has been made aware that there are some individuals and groups, including one of the suspects in the case, who are abusing the First Family’s name in their illegal activities,” Mangwana said.
Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba has also weighed in, a peddling conspiracy theory that The NewsHawks were investigating his boss in a bid to link him to some dealers, especially David Crosby who is said to be one of the biggest gold traders in Zimbabwe. Crosby was recently arrested for trying to defeat the ends of justice over a gold case.