Zimbabwe’s first lady has denied any involvement in an alleged attempt to smuggle gold out of the country, after her name came up in court papers about the case.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s wife Auxillia and their son Collins were mentioned on Friday as potential owners of six kilogrammes (13 pounds) of gold found in the possession of mining boss Henrietta Rushwaya as she tried to leave the country.
The leader of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation was caught at Harare airport on October 26 as she was about to board a flight to Dubai, and was arrested on the spot.
Six other people including state security officials stationed at the airport have been arrested over the case.
“I have no dealings nor involvement with Miss Henrietta Rushwaya of any illegal kind,” Auxillia said in a statement on Sunday.
“If there is any incriminating evidence against me, I challenge the police to present it to the nation without fear or favour,” she said.
“I serve the interests of my nation and… do not engage in illegal narrow-minded pursuits like gold smuggling.”
The names of the first family came up during questioning of Rushwaya and the airport officials that assisted her.
Intelligence operatives have been accused of helping her evade security checks by whisking her through the diplomatic route.
But civil aviation officials intercepted the traveller and forced her to go through standard security checks that picked up the gold in her hand luggage.
During questioning, the suspects said Collins was the person who was supposed to have exported the gold to Dubai.
The government has vehemently denied the allegations, claiming the Mnangagwa family was deliberately implicated in order to evade prosecution.
Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa on Monday accused the suspects of trying to “drag the name of the first family” by linking it to “corrupt and criminal activities”.
“These malicious reports… are a well-coordinated attack on the system, which is intended to agitate Zimbabweans into demonstrations and uprising,” Mutsvangwa said in a statement.
Rushwaya is still awaiting a decision on her bail application.
Her arrest comes as Zimbabwean authorities are battling a wave of gold smuggling amounting to an estimated $100 million a month.
State prosecutor Garudzo Siyadhuma last week described the case as “a classic example of organised crime” and said the “net of the syndicate” was probably wider.