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Henrietta Rushwaya acquitted of bribery in US$330k gold smuggling case

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s niece and Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) boss Henrietta Rushwaya has been acquitted in the case she was accused of trying to bribe an airport official with US$5,000 in a bid to smuggle 6kg of gold worth more than US$330,000.

In clearing her after trial, Harare magistrate Learnmore Mapiye on Thursday ruled that the State’s case was too weak. He upheld Rushwaya’s claim that she never attempted to bribe anyone since she had no money on her on the day in question.

“The State witness did not support that the accused avoided the ordinary route,” Mapiye said.

“It is also common cause that Owen Sibanda, the key witness, said that he was not offered any money but was going to be offered US$5,000.

“Sibanda said that he took the issue of the bribe as a joke which the court was shocked about because the issue of the bribery is not a joke.

“The State witness told the court that the accused was arrested for travelling with gold without proper documents but the evidence of the State witness, especially the first one, was not convincing.

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“The accused might have committed the offence but the State failed to prove beyond belief that she could have committed the offence.”

Rushwaya was accused of attempting to bribe a Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) official Owen Sibanda to let her illegally pass through the Robert Gabriel Mugabe international airport with 6kg gold in her handbag.

But she denied allegations telling the court that she had picked the wrong bag. Rushwaya added that the witnesses wanted to tarnish her name in order for her to lose her position as ZMF president.

“My position is a highly contested one and, when the incident happened, we were heading towards an election so maybe Sibanda was and still is under the influence of external forces,” she said.

“Maybe he is being made to give statements to appease those who are controlling him in an effort to jeopardise my chances of remaining president or he is being malicious.”

Hopewell Chin'ono arrives at the Harare Magistrates' Court in November 2020
Hopewell Chin’ono arrives at the Harare Magistrates’ Court in November 2020
Its now 22 months since journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested and put on remand for exposing that Rushwaya was going to “corruptly” get free bail after being caught trying to smuggle 6kgs of gold to Dubai.

Chin’ono tweeted that Rushwaya was going to be granted bail unopposed after her arrest in October 2020. His claim was later substantiated when the state consented to bail.

The latest development where she has been acquitted of trying to bribe an official will do more to convince even the doubters that the courts are captured by Mnangagwa’s regime.