According to Zimbabwean law, an investigation into a crime can only be initiated based on a case report and/or prima facie evidence that a crime may have been committed.

This means that law enforcement or investigative bodies may not be drawn into investigating without just cause, for the purpose of discovering a crime that was not initially reported or apparent (patent) to have instigated an investigation. Any investigation outside a case report or prima facie evidence indicating the possible existence of a crime, would be tantamount to a witch-hunt.

This brings me to Al Jazeera’s claims of gold looting in Zimbabwe in their “Gold Mafia” documentary. It is clear that the allegations made in the documentary lack just cause and clear evidence on what crimes were committed as it relies more on gossip and purported written documentation provided by supposed witnesses whose bonafides has not been examined in the documentary.

If we Zimbabweans and our government were to accept the claims at face value, we would be running the danger of tacitly accepting the aspersions cast now and in the future upon the President, his family, other senior officials of the government and major investors as well.

Therefore, it is critical to assess the validity of the claims made and documentation shown in the documentary, to determine whether there is prima facie evidence and just cause for our law enforcement to initiate criminal investigations.

Additionally, in line with the audi alteram partem rule, the implicated individuals must also be allowed to present their side of the story before a decision on non-prosecutorial seizures and blocking of accounts or investigations on them is made.

The above process is even more necessary now when considering that over the years, ZACC (Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission) has conducted numerous investigations, but few, if any, have resulted in convictions, leading to criticism about their prevailing conduct of “Catch and Release”.

In the past, ZACC has ordered arrests to illustrate the government’s commitment to acting against corruption, but without sufficient evidence to successfully prosecute, such prosecutions have failed to get convictions, leading to the violation of the rights of the accused.

Similarly, South Africa’s prosecuting authorities have also fallen into the same trap of instituting arrests based on the hype of the “State Capture Commission”, gossip, and news reports, and now these cases are collapsing due to a lack of sufficient evidence in key cases like the Freda Dairy saga, which forms the fulcrum of proving Gupta state capture.

It is crucial, therefore, that Zimbabwean authorities do not get caught up in similar, politically-influenced kangaroo courts that are based solely on gossip from choreographed bioscopes (documentaries) and media anecdotes.

If investigations and arrests are to ensue to deal with gold smuggling and financial crimes, let them be guided only by the law and strong evidence that can pass the test of cross-examination, and not the assertions of a media outlet with a distant relationship with the truth.

With the release of the “Gold Mafia” documentary, the Zimbabwean government feels compelled to take action in response to the unsubstantiated allegations made by Al Jazeera. This is borne out of fear of facing additional sanctions and a FATF (Financial Action Task-Force) greylisting on the back of these unsubstantiated allegations, without due process.

By consistently altering procedures and national laws in acquiescence to pressure from our sanctions senders, our government is abdicating its duties to foreign powers as if we were a non-self-governing territory (a colony). This is an indictment of a nation that claims never to be a colony again.

This situation serves as a reminder that unilateral sanctions strip away a nation’s sovereignty and a government’s ability to govern fairly and justly based on democratic laws.

It highlights the need for us as a nation to combat illegal sanctions and FATF measures imposed upon nations without due process because it coerces African governments to make policies and decisions compliant with our colonizer’s laws, without domestic mandate.

As a nation, we need to continue advocating for locally grown policies and laws that enable our government to uphold its responsibility to the people, free from external pressure.

We also need to ensure that the Zimbabweans accused of wrongdoing in this documentary are not subjected to the same non-prosecutorial seizures and account blockings that resemble the unilateral sanctions, secondary sanctions and overcompliance currently bedeviling the nation and condemned by the UNHRC Special Rapporteur as lacking in due process.

To aid in ridding ourselves of this suzerainty, last year, ZASM launched a case against the U.S. government for imposing illegal unilateral sanctions and South African domicile banks for discriminating, overcomplying, and implementing illegal sanctions and anti-money laundering measures without trial.

The lawsuit came immediately after the UN Human Rights Council in October 2021, denounced western sanctions on Zimbabwe as contrary to international law and persecution that was causing human rights violations upon civilians, without due process.

The ZASM case seeks to put an end to the arbitrary application of the law of the jungle by FATF, banks and Western countries, as ZASM aims to restore a rules-based system in global finance. Let us hope that our Reserve Bank and government will refrain from imposing illegal sanctions on their citizens without due process in this gold saga, simply to impress FATF and sanctions senders.

May the rule of law prevail over coercion and if our nation is indeed sanctioned irregularly by FATF or the West for allegations made in the documentary, may our government seek justice through the courts rather than perpetually being subject to arbitrary punishment premised on frivolous allegations made against our nation.

Written by Rutendo Matinyarare: Chairman of ZASM and founder of Frontline Strat Marketing Consultancy.

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