Watching the US election from this side of the Atlantic we began to feel as if it was election time in Zimbabwe – the same emotions, frustrations and anxieties.
This was the last thing we expected from a beacon of democracy, yet we heard phrases from the incumbent, such as: ‘Stop counting’, ‘Illegal votes’, ‘Stealing the election’. As we waited for the final results, we wondered if this is what the world thinks of us in our never-ending cycle of contested elections in Zimbabwe?
For the past fortnight in Zimbabwe, however, we have been gripped not with election fever but with gold fever.
At the forefront is Henrietta Rushwaya, the former CEO of Zifa (Zimbabwe Football Association) who left her post there after being accused of fixing international football matches between 2007 and 2009 in a scandal known as Asiagate.
Rushwaya, president of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation, was caught with six kilograms of gold in her hand luggage at Harare airport.
Everyone knows this is the tiniest tip of a giant golden iceberg, but even so it’s kept us hanging onto every detail.
After a tip-off by detectives, the gold was detected in her hand luggage by a scanner at the airport. The police said Rushwaya “indicated she obtained it from Ali” – who is apparently a licensed gold buyer – and “had been instructed by Ali to leave the gold with an unidentified person at Dubai International Airport” when she arrived there.
Rushwaya was arrested before she had the chance to depart, and since then the sticky spider web has been untangling.
A security aide from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) – known as the ‘secret police’ – who was involved, fled the airport and was later dismissed from his post by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who alleged that Rushwaya was romantically involved with Zimbabwe’s prosecutor-general, had criminal charges laid against him.
‘A classic case of organised crime’
Independent online media group New Zimbabwe said Rushwaya was “working with a criminal syndicate that managed to switch off CCTV” at the airport.
Six other people were arrested, including two from the CIO and two senior police officials.
Bail for Rushwaya was agreed but then retracted by the prosecutor, who said “this was a classic case of organised crime” and there was evidence that Rushwaya tried to bribe the two detectives who arrested her. By then, with the writing clearly on the wall, the Miners Federation issued a statement saying it had suspended its president (Rushwaya) for “bringing the name of the organisation into disrepute”.
Then came the cherry on top – Rushwaya’s lawyer said his client had taken the wrong bag to the airport, saying she had put clothes into a bag similar to the one with the gold in it and the “wrong bag was put into her vehicle and she did not have knowledge of the contents” until the scanners picked it up.
Hmmm, only in Zimbabwe can you confuse the weight of six kilograms of gold with a pair of blue jeans. I think most of us would feel a difference in the weight of that hand luggage.
And while we were all watching the US election and the handbag-gate scandal, Zimbabwe increased the price of electricity by 50% – the second 50% increase in a month.
Highway toll gate fees were increased by 166% and passport fees went up from US$53 to US$150.
The registrar-general said there is now a backlog of 400 000 passports and that although funds had been raised to clear the backlog, the money had been “channelled towards fighting Covid-19″.
The corruption-exposing journalist Chin’ono is again incarcerated, instilling yet more fear in those who expose corruption in Zimbabwe.
And the only gold any of us are seeing is that of the sunset as it slips into the horizon these November evenings.
Cathy Buckle is a Zimbabwean writer and blogger living in Marondera, Zimbabwe.
Copyright © Cathy Buckle