Now that three of its four episodes have been – and notwithstanding the fact that the fourth episode might have bombshells in the form of controversial or shocking utterances by its main interlocutors – there is nothing that the last episode will do to save the documentary’s disjointed and incoherent thesis, which would have long gone up in smoke but for the gripping and often self-incriminating verbatim claims of its greedy interlocutors.
In the circumstances, and given the foregoing, the following is notable:
1. It is unfortunate that there has been a concerted but ill-conceived and desperate campaign to drag @ReserveBankZim into the documentary’s mud in pursuit of a hidden agenda.
2. Factually, and legally in terms of the Gold Trade Act, the #RBZ does not issue gold export or dealership licences, that is a responsibility of Government through Treasury. Fidelity’s licence to refine and export gold was therefore issued by Government, not by #RBZ.
3. There are three channels under which gold is sold to Fidelity Gold Refinery. Firstly, scale producers deliver their gold to Fidelity for refinery and then export it and are paid by Fidelity within a week after refinery.
4. Secondly, artisanal gold producers sell their gold through Fidelity gold buying centres, where artisanal gold producers are paid upon delivery by Fidelity.
5. Thirdly, Fidelity issues gold buying licences to its buying agents to buy gold from where it has no presence. The buying agents then take it to Fidelity for refinery and export. Notably, it is this third that’s featuring prominently in the Al Jazeera documentary.
The interlocutors in the documentary used to be buying agents, not exporters, of Fidelity up to 2019, when a new policy was put in place that allows only the indigenous to qualify to be Fidelity’s gold buying agents. This change has rocked the gold trading market. The claim in the documentary that the Al Jazeera interlocutors are authorised buying agents for Fidelity is false.
6. By law, #RBZ does not issue gold buying agent licences or certificates. They are issued by Fidelity to enhance its geographical coverage of the country where it does not have presence. The Al Jazeera documentary confuses gold buying licences issued to Fidelity’s local agents with the gold export licence which is only the preserve of Fidelity in terms of the law, and the gold export licence is issued to Fidelity licence by Government. And by law, that export licence is not for RBZ.
7. If the gold buying agents use their money to buy gold from the artisanal gold producers, and take the gold to Fidelity for refinery, then Fidelity buys the gold from its agents at a discount of up to 5% of the international gold price. The compensation for the agent is up to 3%.
8. As a direct result of these schemes, gold that went through the formal channels through Fidelity went up from 18 tons in 2019 [the period covered by the Al Jazeera documentary] to 35 tons recorded in 2022, which suggests that there were less incidences of gold smuggling out of Zimbabwe last year compared to 2019.
Given the above points, it is important to have an informed debate on gold mining and gold trade in Zimbabwe, the Al Jazeera documentary does not break any new ground in this regard because it is woefully uninformed, save that its cast of interlocutors has a lot of explaining to do.
Otherwise, the four-part Al Jazeera documentary is most definitely a welcome intervention but it has to be said that – while interesting and indeed useful from the standpoint of what is said by its interlocutors – the documentary itself is sloppy, bereft of researched content, incoherent and far from meeting minimum expectations, no wonder South Africans are not taking it seriously at all, despite the fact that Episode 2 is largely on shocking cigarette smuggling and money laundering in that country!