Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya has been fined US$5,000 and had 6kg of gold, worth over US$333,000, forfeited to the State after attempting to smuggle it to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
The sentencing was based on new guidelines, with Justice Pisirayi Kwenda taking into account various factors that mitigated the sentence. These factors included the significant loss of the gold, the unsuccessful smuggling attempt, Rushwaya’s status as an “elderly” woman offender, and the severe damage to her business reputation.
Under the new guidelines, Rushwaya was fined US$5,000, with the alternative of serving a one-year imprisonment if the fine is not paid. Additionally, she received a suspended sentence of 18 months in prison for three years, on the condition that she does not commit a similar offence during that period. The most significant penalty was the forfeiture of the four bars of pure gold she was caught with.
During the sentencing, Justice Kwenda considered the statements made by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) regarding the financial and economic consequences of the offence, as well as Rushwaya’s mitigating circumstances. The judge acknowledged Rushwaya’s status as an elderly first offender and a respected businesswoman, stating that the conviction would have lasting consequences on her personal and professional life.
While Rushwaya’s attempt to smuggle the gold was unsuccessful, Justice Kwenda emphasized the importance of rehabilitation and punishment in sentencing, aiming to discourage further criminal conduct and promote responsibility among offenders. The new guidelines also provide leniency for special categories of offenders, including female offenders.
The judge explained that the focus of sentencing should be on deterring offenders from reoffending and discouraging others from engaging in criminal conduct. The new approach considers non-custodial sentences and fines as options before imprisonment, further justifying the departure from the presumptive two-year jail term in Rushwaya’s case.
Justice Kwenda also noted that Rushwaya had already suffered punishment through her arrest, incarceration, and the loss of her gold to the state. Rushwaya was apprehended at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on October 26, 2020, while attempting to smuggle the gold through the VIP route. She was found with four small bars of pure gold in her hand luggage.
Rushwaya initially denied the charge, claiming she had mistakenly taken the wrong bag containing the gold bars. However, the court found her guilty, dismissing her defence as implausible.