THE police Minerals and Border Control Unit (MBCU) in Shurugwi has been accused of misappropriating tonnes of gold ore confiscated from a syndicate suspected of illegal mining operations and kept as an exhibit in a theft case that happened two years ago.
BY BRENNA MATENDERE
The five-member mining consortium, known as Masaisai, was hauled to court by one Sabastian Dzingirai who claimed ownership of Paradox Mine at which the group was accused of conducting illegal operations. When members of the syndicate were arrested alongside two directors — Joice Gwaringa and Jabulani Nyabanga — police confiscated 11 tonnes of gold ore found at the site and kept it as exhibit.
Due to inadequate space at Shurugwi Police Station, the ore was kept at Rolly 103 Gold Mine in Shurugwi after mine owner, Brighton Gara (34), signed an indemnity form promising that he would keep the ore safely.
The indemnity form was also signed by the complainant Dzingirai, representatives of the syndicate, Timothy Mauto, investigating officer, Constable Rovodzanayi, and the officer in charge (crime) Inspector Tshuma, on November 23, 2016.
Shurugwi resident magistrate Evia Matura acquitted the members of the syndicate after the State failed to prove a prima facie case against them and their operations were deemed legal.
But despite the court ruling, the gold was not released and was kept by the police.
“We went to the prosecutor and got a letter for us to be given back our gold ore by the police. However, when they took us to the mine where it was kept, they showed us a heap of soil, about three tonnes, and said this is your ore. We refused because that was not our ore. When we asked around at the mine, some people said the police officers came back and milled the ore and got about 2kg of gold. We have been trying to recover the ore since last year, but nothing has come up to date,” Gilbert Makumbe, one of Masaisai directors, said.
Last year, the group approached the then Midlands Provincial Affairs minister Owen Ncube complaining about conduct of the MBCU police. He then wrote to the Midlands Provincial Police Officer Assistant Commissioner Charles Ndoro, urging him to ensure the mining syndicate got its ore and officers responsible for the scam brought to book.
Part of the letter dated December 20, 2017, in Southern Eye’s possession read: “It is also directed that 11 tonnes of ore held at November 11, 2016 by ZRP (Inspector Tshuma, investigating officer C Roodzanayi and Constable Kim) be investigated and returned to the rightful owners and where irregularities appear, the culprits should be brought to book with immediate effect… Please note that it is the duty of this office to protect investors as we turn a new leaf in the history of our economy. Hence, you are called upon to act swiftly as per the expectations of the new dispensation.”
Gwaringa revealed that the police went on to confiscate another five tonnes of gold ore and again refused to return it even after the court ruling.
Ncube in his letter also compelled the police to release the gold ore. “It is also directed that 5 tonnes confiscated under instructions from ZRP (Tshuma and Moyo) be released as per the instructions of the public prosecutor and Courts in Shurugwi,” the letter read.
Rovodzanayi, who was the investing officer in the case, refused to comment when contacted by Southern Eye.
“I am aware of the case but I am not allowed to comment to the Press. Get hold of my bosses,” he said.
Shurugwi MBCU officer in charge (crime) Assistant Inspector Mharakurwa also refused to comment and referred this paper to one Superintendent Thandabanthu.
“Who is complaining? Please speak to our PRLO,” Thandabanthu quipped.
Midlands acting police spokesperson, Assistant Ethel Mukwende did not respond to questions sent to her mobile phone as she was not reachable.