In a controversial move, Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda has rejected calls for an investigation into the gold mafia scandal, arguing that other state institutions are already conducting inquiries into the matter.
The scandal, which was exposed by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, implicates high-ranking Zimbabwean officials in smuggling and money laundering activities, allegedly used to circumvent Western sanctions.
The investigation revealed the international scale of these illicit operations, as illegally obtained gold is funnelled through offshore accounts held by front companies scattered across the globe, ultimately converting into untraceable cash deposits.
However, Mudenda, in a letter dated May 12, 2023, addressed to key parliamentary figures, highlighted that the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) are already handling the case. He argued that it would be inappropriate for Parliament to interfere with ongoing investigations by these specialized agencies.
“In that vein, it would be improper for Parliament to embark on an inquiry on a matter that other arms of the state are investigating. In addition, the matters are of a complex nature and may require extraterritorial visits due to the alleged involvement of foreign players,” Mudenda stated in the letter.
He further justified his decision by citing the cost and practicality of conducting extraterritorial visits, which he deemed more feasible for specialized agencies like ZACC and the police, who possess the necessary expertise and resources to investigate such complex crimes. Mudenda pointed out that Parliament had previously conducted an inquiry into illicit financial flows in the mining sector last year and would exercise its oversight role once the specialized agencies concluded their investigations.
However, critics argue that Mudenda’s decision contradicts the constitutional powers granted to Parliament. Section 119 of the Zimbabwean Constitution explicitly states that Parliament has oversight over all institutions, including the Executive branch of government. According to Section 119(1)(c), Parliament has the authority to initiate investigations into issues of public concern, including the conduct of individuals or authorities, in the exercise of its legislative power.
This constitutional provision affirms Parliament’s right to launch inquiries into corruption or mismanagement scandals involving high-ranking officials. Some have pointed to the example of the South African government, which deferred to specialized agencies when facing similar allegations of gold smuggling and money laundering. However, critics argue that this should not hinder Parliament from fulfilling its oversight responsibilities.
As the debate continues, the public awaits further developments regarding the gold mafia scandal and the potential role of Parliament in uncovering the truth behind these illicit activities.