- Rushwaya froze as military intelligence officers appeared cocksure she had some stash in the luggage, and she desperately reached for her phone to call back Tserayi for assistance, Zimbabwe Voice has heard.
By Andrew Murenha
A crack unit comprising members of the Zimbabwe Military Intelligence trailed Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya to the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Monday and swooped on her after she had been escorted to “safety” by two members of the President’s Office.
Stephen Tserayi, who was fired this Tuesday from the President’s motorcade chauffeurs pool for the gold smuggling scandal, had escorted Rushwaya to ensure she boards her Air Emirates flight without incident.
New details show that Tserayi and another CIO operative, Rafius Mupandauya, escorted Rushwaya to make sure she could quickly be cleared without undergoing heavy body searches at the country’s biggest airport Monday midmorning.
Rushwaya was being driven in her Mercedes-Ben sedan while the two aides used their own vehicle which all the way from the northern suburbs of Harare maintained a “safe distance,” said an intelligence source with a first-hand experience of the arrest.
Rushwaya arrived at the airport less than an hour before check-in. Tserayi promptly accompanied her into the lobby before proceeding to the passport check point.
“Tserayi also have a signal to an airport security official to order that the CCTV be briefly switched off.
“Within less than five minutes, Rushwaya had completed all procedured which normally take between 10 to 20 minutes, and was heading to the VIP entrance so she could board her flight bound for the United Arab Emirates.
“It all happened like clockwork and with pinpoint precision, showing that either it was well pre-planned or it was a procedure they had performed countless times before,” the source told the Zimbabwe Voice Thursday afternoon.
Seeing that Rushwaya was off to safety, Tserayi and Mupandauya then left and headed back to town in their vehicle.
Rushwaya had barely made it to the boarding lobby when she was stopped by Military Intelligence officers who immediately identified themselves and ordered her to open her hand luggage.
“Rushwaya froze as military intelligence officers appeared cocksure she had some stash in the luggage, and she desperately reached for her phone to call back Tserayi for assistance,” said the source.
According to the source, the military intelligence officers would have loved Tserayi to come back so they could make a real big scoop of an arrest, but the Presidential motorcade chauffeur, acting on some sixth sense, refused to return.
“Tserayi actually picked the call and heard Rushwaya’s plea for him to come back, but would not speak or turn back to the Airport.
“When the case unravelled later on in the day, intelligence bosses at State House quizzed he and he denied having ever set foot at the airport on the day in question,” said the source.
She immediately implicated Ali Muhammad, the CEO of used car importing firm Ali Japan 786 as the owner and source of the gold found in her personal luggage.
Investigators speaking under anonymity told the Zimbabwe Voice that Muhammad told detectives he formed his car dealership company in 2012. The company has little footprint in Zimbabwe but enjoys considerable presence in Hong Kong where it sells cars imported from Japan.
Tserayi was fired from the CIO on Tuesday afternoon after his immediate superior notified President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The next day, detectives swooped on him and he is in police custody awaiting court appearance.
The fate of his colleague in the CIO, Mufandauya, remains unclear but he too is in police custody.
The fourth arrested person is Gift Karanda. Police say Karanda allegedly lied that he was a member of the Central Intelligence Organisation at the time of the arrest.
Karanda is the secretary for external affairs at the Zimbabwe Miners Federation. It is suspected he tried to use the CIO label to scare away the plain clothes military intelligence operatives as they arrested his boss Rushwaya.
Seeing that Tserayi was not forthcoming, Rushwaya also desperately attempted to bribe the arresting authorities without success.
The fifth and sixth suspects arrested so far in the dragnet are top cops on the Zimbabwe Republic Police and Criminal Investigation Department, police announced Thursday morning. The two top cops’ link to the case remain unknown yet.
“The ZRP confirms that six more suspects have been arrested in connection with the gold smuggling investigation on Henrietta Rushwaya. These are; Ali Mohamad, Gift Karanda, Stephen Chenjerai Tserayi, Raphios Mufandauya, Superintendent Shoko and Det. Chief Inspector Chimhungu,” police said in a statement.
Rushwaya remains in custody as complications arose in her bail application yesterday when the State made a u-turn on its earlier decision to accept a $90,000 bail and reporting conditions plus the surety of title deeds to her lawyer’s Borrowdale property.
Harare Magistrate Ngoni Nduna will tomorrow (Friday) rule on whether or not the State can withdraw its earlier consent and if so whether Rushwaya can still be admitted to bail, and if so under what conditions. – Zimbabwe Voice ■