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Lack of diamond scanners and training fuelling smuggling at borders

Lack of diamond scanners at airports and officials training at border posts is fuelling smuggling as Zimbabwe loses millions in mineral revenue to smuggling and externalisation.

The latest report presented by Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development chairperson Edmond Mkaratigwa which assessed the diamond sector revealed irregularities leading to mineral smuggling at airports and border posts.

The government in 2020 said Zimbabwe was losing close to US$2 billion of mineral revenues especially gold to smuggling and externalisation.

“At Forbes Border post and Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, the Committee met with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), Airport Authority of Zimbabwe, Immigration and Security officials. These were the key findings of the Committee:

“At Forbes Border Post, ZIMRA officials were trained on the KPCS requirements but the other agencies such as Immigration Department had not gone through the same.

“Secondly, border officials highlighted that they were not trained to identify the features of a diamond. To address this gap, MMCZ indicated that it intends to post some of its officials at the border posts,” read the report.

“There were no scanners to detect diamonds and other precious minerals at both Forbes Border Post and Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport. The Committee was informed by the Airport Authority that there were plans to purchase the appropriate scanners in the year 2022.

“Forbes Border Post had not recorded any official export of diamonds to other countries. All the diamonds were being exported through the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.”

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Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport
Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport

It was further noted that officials at Forbes Border Post were not aware of the features of an export certificate used in the trading of diamonds.

“The customs officials requested MMCZ (Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe) to supply them with a copy, so that officials would not be caught off-guard in the event that diamonds are exported or imported through that Border.

“The security personnel at the Forbes Border Post indicated that they had not recorded any incidents of diamonds being smuggled from that gateway.

“ZIMRA officials at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport requested KPCS officials to train them on how to identify tampering of diamond seals.

“The authorities at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport highlighted that the facility and infrastructure was being upgraded including the security system to curb the smuggling of diamonds and other precious metals.”

The committee also realised that one of the major loopholes in legal and policy framework was the non-recognition of artisanal and small-scale miners “who are largely fuelling the smuggling of diamonds to other countries, particularly through Mozambique.

“Furthermore, it was noted that the Diamond Policy is not widely known by the public and it was therefore, imperative for the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development to disseminate the policy.”

Center for Research and Development Zimbabwe recently noted that the exploitation of gold in Zimbabwe was largely controlled by Zanu-PF political elites and securocrats whose actions “have become a source of violence, destruction of the environment and contamination of water bodies with toxic substances.”

In 2020, Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president, Henrietta Rushwaya was arrested trying to smuggle 6 kgs of gold bars worth USD$333 000 in her handbag on a flight from Harare to Dubai. She has since been controversially acquitted of all charges.

Corruption at border posts and airports has seen State security agents not only facilitating the smuggling of precious minerals and ivory but drugs such as cocaine and ephedrine coming from Brazil, Peru, India and other Asian Countries.