The scramble for gold – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary

The desperate struggle to save artisanal miners trapped in a collapsed shaft in Bindura has focused attention on the lucrative informal gold sector costing the state an estimated US$1.5 billion a year through smuggling abroad.


This follows the recent arrest at Harare airport of the president  of the Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation Henrietta Rushwaya, who is accused of trying to smuggle 6 kgs of gold worth US$330,000 to Dubai. President Mnangagwa’s wife Auxillia and her son Collins have denied suggestions they were involved.

The research think tank, International Crisis Group, suggests that Zanu PF leaders are competing to control the gold sector. In its report ‘All that glisters in not gold: turmoil in Zimbabwe’s mining sector’, it notes ‘some observers contend that whoever controls the gold will control and rule Zimbabwe’.

International Crisis Group speaks of power struggles between Mnangagwa, Vice President General Chiwenga and Foreign Affairs Minister General Sibusiso Moyo, who are said to be leading competing factions.

The problem in the gold sector is that all producers must sell to the Reserve Bank via its subsidiary Fidelity Printers and Refiners. But this pays less that the market rate and sometime late and also only partially in US dollars. But get the gold to Dubai and you are paid the prevailing world price in cash on the spot, no questions asked (see:


With half the population of Zimbabwe living in poverty, it is not surprising that desperate people risk their lives searching for gold in abandoned mines (see:

The Herald predictably makes much of the latest report of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation on African governance, which names Zimbabwe as among the five most improved nations over the last decade. But an alternative reading of the report suggests that it is not so much that the situation in Zimbabwe has got better but that it has got worse in other countries . . .

It was the failure of governance in Africa that prompted the Sudanese philanthropist to award a prize of $1 million to a head of state who stepped down when his term of office ended and did not seek instead to change the constitution to stay in power.

But with all that gold around, it will take more than a million dollars to tempt Mnangagwa to retire . . . (See:

Other Points:

  • SADC says it is working on a robust regional response to the growing threat by Islamic terrorists in Mozambique. The announcement followed a meeting of the organisation’s security troika in Botswana attended by the Presidents of Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana. Mozambique has requested help and it was represented at the meeting by its Defence Minister (see:
  • The Vigil warmly congratulates the two Zimbabweans, Tafadzwa Kufazvinei (medicine) and Brandon Tankwa (engineering), who are to come here to study at Oxford University as Rhodes scholars next year – particularly as one of our supporters taught at Petra College in Bulawayo, the school attended by Brandon.
  • Because of the coronavirus we can no longer physically meet outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London, so we have a virtual Vigil while the restrictions continue. We ask our activists to put on Vigil / ROHR / Zimbabwe regalia and take a photo of themselves holding an appropriate poster reflecting our protest against human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. The photos are uploaded on our Flickr site: Our virtual Vigil activist today was Patience Bakasa who kindly contributed to Vigil funds.
  • For Vigil pictures check: Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website.


  • The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organization based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organization on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents us.
  • The Vigil’s book ‘Zimbabwe Emergency’ is based on our weekly diaries. It records how events in Zimbabwe have unfolded as seen by the diaspora in the UK. It chronicles the economic disintegration, violence, growing oppression and political manoeuvring – and the tragic human cost involved. It is available at the Vigil. All proceeds go to the Vigil and our sister organisation the Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe’s work in Zimbabwe. The book is also available from Amazon.
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