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Zimbabweans React to Documentary Alleging Government Corruption

Mining for gold in Zimbabwe.
Mining for gold in Zimbabwe.

Columbus Mavhunga

HARARE - Some of the Zimbabwean officials accused of gold smuggling and money laundering in the Al Jazeera documentary "Gold Mafia" have welcomed a government plan to investigate the allegations.

But critics doubt the government's ability to crack down on internal corruption. Columbus Mavhunga reports from Harare, Zimbabwe.

In March, Al Jazeera released its investigative documentary "Gold Mafia," which linked illegal gold trade and corruption to powerful individuals in Zimbabwe.

Simon Rudland is a businessman who owns a tobacco company. In the documentary, he was accused of lending the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe millions of dollars to buy gold to be smuggled out of the country.

He dismissed the Al Jazeera film, describing it as “sensationalized in the extreme, and [making] broad claims without any context or evidentiary proof.” However, he told VOA he welcomed government investigations into the documentary’s claims.

But this financial officer at a government school, who asked to be unidentified because he fears for his safety, says he has provided evidence of corruption to authorities over the past three years and is doubtful anything will happen to the gold mafia.

“I do not foresee them acting on this issue of corruption given the number of times, apart from submission of physical documents, I have had instances of actually calling, and they sound like they have forgotten about it and who is calling over which issue.”

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission turned down requests for interviews about the accusations in the “Gold Mafia” documentary. But following the film's release, Zimbabwe Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the government was taking measures.

“Government takes this opportunity to reaffirm its commitment upholding local and international laws, including laws relating to financial transactions, the trade of gold and other precious minerals of our country.”

But Tendai Biti, an opposition leader and former Zimbabwe finance minister, does not think so.

“The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission has spent millions, about $33 million in the last year alone, on corruption, but there is no prosecution, there has been no investigation. So we have no confidence that anything can happen. But at least we welcome the normative commitment to dealing with corruption.”

The Zimbabwean government has long been accused of ignoring corruption associated with senior officials from the ruling Zanu-PF party. Critics say that explains why the country’s economy is in doldrums.