A government official from Eswatini has described Gold Mafia, the Al Jazeera documentary that exposed syndicates that are behind massive gold smuggling and money laundering in Zimbabwe, as a personal fight against Uebert Angel.
In the documentary, Zimbabwe featured prominently after Uebert Angel, born Hubert Mudzanire, was secretly recorded offering to help undercover Al Jazeera journalists to launder US$1,2 billion in dirty money.
Al Jazeera journalists had introduced themselves to Angel as part of Chinese criminals that wanted to clean dirty money through gold smuggling.
The documentary also touched on the smuggling of Zimbabwean cigarettes into South Africa and money laundering.
In a video that has gone viral on social media, Eswatini government spokesperson Alphaeous Nxumalo described the exposé as a personal vendetta against Angel who is President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ambassador-at-large.
Nxumalo claimed there was a plot to smear Mnangagwa’s name and scuttle Zimbabwe’s investment deals. NewsDay quotes him as saying:
Of utmost interest and importance in the story that has been developing on Al Jazeera, the journalists behind this story are breaking all norms that govern journalistic ethics.
They lack understanding that diplomacy is a very difficult job to do, which is to navigate around the international system to ensure that the countries they represent get the best in the form of international investors.
When you look at the documentary it is personal to ambassador Uebert Angel.
The documentary is a damp squib, which focuses on someone who is not even a civil servant.
Ambassador Angel is allowed to do business and to partner with international observers as they are willingly engaging him within the interest of the people of Zimbabwe.
He accused the Al Jazeera journalists of trying to jeopardise the investment and engagement efforts since it failed to show Angel holding the gold.
Nxumalo defended Angel ahead of King Mswati III’s arrival in Zimbabwe where he is scheduled to officially open the 63rd edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo on Friday.
Zambia’s former Foreign Affairs minister Harry Kalaba also made another recording where he said there was nothing amiss with what Angel was doing as diplomats could do “anything” to woo investors.
Kalaba resigned as Foreign Affairs minister under former President Lungu, citing corruption in the Zambian government.
He believes that diplomats have to use their ingenuity to attract investors to their country and there is nothing wrong with their behind-the-scenes actions.
He also thinks that Zimbabwe’s situation should be understood from the perspective of the sanctions they are going through and President Mnangagwa should be encouraged instead of being criticized.
Local analysts, however, scoffed at Nxumalo and Kalaba’s attempts to dismiss the revelations by Al Jazeera. Centre for Natural Resource Governance executive director Farai Maguwu said the comments simply reveal the endemic corruption in Africa.
A political analyst named Rejoice Ngwenya said that African governments rely on diplomacy to maintain their current situation.
Diplomats are not searched at airports, which allows them to engage in unethical behaviour without consequence. Ngwenya also criticized foreign diplomats for not considering how their actions affect local communities.
Angel, through his lawyer Lovemore Madhuku, claimed that he did nothing wrong as he was taking part in an intelligence operation.