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Henrietta Rushwaya judge gets US$400,000 house on eve of sentencing

by Staff reporter
15 Nov 2023 at 05:21hrs | Views
A judge set to deliver judgment in Henrietta Rushwaya's gold smuggling trial was given a house by the government last Friday, ZimLive can reveal.

The transaction was approved by chief cabinet secretary Martin Rushwaya, the Zimbabwe Miners Federation president's cousin.

Justice Pisirayi Kwenda was due to sentence Rushwaya on Friday last week following her November 1 conviction for attempting to leave the country through the RGM International Airport with 6kg of gold worth US$330,000 stashed in her handbag in October 2020.

Sentencing was postponed after the judge said he would hear evidence from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) on the potential prejudice the country stood to suffer had Rushwaya succeeded in smuggling out the gold.

ZimLive has now been informed that on that same day the judge postponed judgment, the government finally approved his US$400,000 "loan" – a controversial facility which is managed by treasury on directions from the president's office, and is being extended to all judges to buy houses. The payments have been staggered and some judges are yet to get their houses.

"The confirmation (of the payment) was conveyed to the judge in a way that left no doubt that it was Martin Rushwaya's intervention that speeded up the process," a source familiar with the transaction said.

The judge's new house is in the leafy suburb of Chisipite.

On Tuesday, Justice Kwenda again postponed judgement to 2.30PM on Wednesday after hearing evidence from ZIMRA and RBZ experts who were called by the National Prosecuting Authority represented by Whisper Mabhaudhi.

During cross examination by Rushwaya's lawyer Oliver Marwa, all the witnesses said there was no actual prejudice to the state but potential prejudice as Rushwaya had been intercepted at the airport X-Ray machine and the gold recovered.

Mighty Pavarikanda, who works in ZIMRA's domestic taxes section said: "We have mining royalties and income tax… all collected in terms of the Finance Act. Our royalties due were going to be 5 percent of the total value of the gold which is US$16,652.11."

He further explained that "50 percent of the royalties should be in actual gold, which means of the 6kg gold, US$8,327.06 worth of gold was supposed to be submitted in kind as gold to the RBZ."

During cross examination by Marwa, Pavarikanda said it was not confirmed if Rushwaya was a small-scale gold producer or not.

Marwa had insisted that small scale miners pay 1 percent of their mineral in royalties, putting Pavarikanda to task to prove that his client falls under the 5 percent bracket.

Pavarikanda said if Rushwaya is indeed a small-scale miner, potential prejudice would be reduced to US$3,315,42.

Two witnesses from RBZ also testified.

Tafadzwa Simon Muvevi from RBZ's Exchange Control division said smuggling has serious effects on the economy including exchange rate instability and price instability leading to inflation.

Tichafa Chigaba, the deputy director analytics in the RBZ Financial Intelligence Unit also tendered an affidavit outlining effects of smuggling before he was cross examined by Marwa.

Mabhaudhi urged the judge to give Rushwaya a custodial sentence, arguing that a non-custodial sentence would trivialise the offence.

The relatively small amount which ZIMRA said was the potential prejudice has given rise to fears that Rushwaya, a Zanu-PF donor also reported to be President Emmerson Mnangagwa's niece, would be let off with just a slap on the wrist.

The case has also taken a political dimension as Mnangagwa's allies, unhappy with Rushwaya's predicament, are reportedly accusing Justice Kwenda, a retired soldier, of taking instructions from vice president Constantino Chiwenga, a retired general who is eyeing to succeed Mnangagwa who is two months into his final five-year term.

Source - zimlive
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