gold trail

Zimbabwe: Uebert Angel, the man of God accused of money laundering

By Farai Shawn Matiashe

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Posted on June 4, 2023 08:30


Uebert Angel, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s envoy and ambassador at large to Europe and the Americas, is portrayed as a central figure among powerful gold smugglers from Zimbabwe to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Al Jazeera’s ‘Gold Mafia’ documentary.

Born Uebert Mudzanire, the 44-year-old British-Zimbabwean appears to be close to Mnangagwa’s wife Auxillia and his niece Henrietta Rushwaya who is also the president of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation.


Angel boasts of being close to Mnangagwa and his family to the extent of even calling him on a private and secure line.

Using his diplomatic passport, Angel says he can smuggle any amount of US dollars cash in and out of Zimbabwe in his bag which is protected and cannot be searched.

With the powers vested in him by Mnangagwa, Angel can sign deals with individuals and companies abroad on behalf of the Zimbabwean government without anyone from the cabinet or executive objecting.

“I am the second-largest diplomat in the country. Do you know I can carry him in a bag, and nobody is allowed to search? Right now, I can have a bag like this with $1.2bn. And put a red tape written diplomat. That’s it,” said Angel while speaking to undercover journalists in the documentary.

“Mr. Angel is one of the most cunning, greedy and controversial businessmen and televangelists of our time,” says Tapuwa O’bren Nhachi, a Zimbabwean social scientist.

“Remember his departure in Zimbabwe was mired in controversy so has been his lifestyle and prophetic industry,” he adds.

Mystery and controversy

His appointment as ambassador at large also raised eyebrows and his actions in the documentary summed up who he is, says Nhachi, who has worked with civil society groups in the extractive industry before.

“I can also safely say he is an opportunist whose end is to make himself wealthier than he is,” he says.

Angel asks businesspeople to pay thousands of dollars for his services of just facilitating a meeting with the President, who is referred to as the “king” in the documentary.

This confirms allegations that government officials and businesspeople close to Mnangagwa secure meetings for investors with the President for huge sums of money.

“We have done maybe for two hundred million or three hundred million [dollars]. But we have not done for one billion [dollars] per see,” said Angel while speaking to undercover journalists in the documentary on how he could help them smuggle cash into Zimbabwe.

There was a public outcry in Zimbabwe and abroad following the appointment of Angel as a Presidential envoy and Ambassador at large in March 2021.

‘Thieves and smugglers’

Angel’s whole life has been shrouded in mystery and controversies.

To many, the appointment was not a surprise given that Mnangagwa associates himself with controversial people like Ewan MacMillan and Kenyan-born businessman Kamlesh Pattni – both men feature widely in the documentary – who have opaque reputations.

Gold is smuggled from Zimbabwe with the help of Rushwaya, officials of Fidelity Printers and Refiners, the sole buyers of gold owned by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and immigration officers at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, according to Al Jazeera‘s investigation.

The dirty money is cleaned through a system called Hawala – an informal way of moving money outside the formal banking channel without detection which will see the money declared as clean in both Harare and Dubai.

In Al Jazeera‘s documentary, Pattni’s couriers are accused of flying gold to Dubai and bring back US dollars to Zimbabwe.

In 2021, CNRG released a report titled ‘Zimbabwe’s Disappearing Gold: The Case of Mazowe and Penhalonga’ which exposed how politicians linked to President Mnangagwa are smuggling the country’s natural resources outside the country.

Illicit financial flows in the artisanal mining sector in Zimbabwe are responsible for leakages of an estimated 3trn of gold, valued at approximately $157m every month, according to the CNRG report.

Zimbabwe trades in $2bn worth of gold per annum.

Small-scale miners produce about 50% of the southern African nation’s gold but Mnangagwa’s cash-strapped government does not have enough money to buy it, thus the smugglers, with the help of Angel, buy it for the bank, per Al Jazeera‘s investigation.

In 2020, Rushwaya was arrested and charged with attempting to smuggle 6kg of gold from Zimbabwe to Dubai. In 2021, her former driver was exposed when he tried to smuggle to Dubai gold worth more than $670,000.

‘Thug masquerading as a man of God’

Angel was born and raised in a Christian family in Zimbabwe.

His journey to preaching goes back to 1996 when he established a small group that conducted its affairs at his home, which later grew into a church known as the Spirit Embassy in 2007. The self-styled prophet is not apologetic about his sermons, based on how his congregants can become rich.

He has authored several books on how to make money and he has a theology institution that charges for its services and he takes offerings, hosts conventions and sells different faith products online.

Today, based in the UK, Angel presents himself as a powerful ‘man of God’ who owns satellite-broadcasting channels, Miracle TV, GoodNews TV and Wow TV, which air his church services.

He once clashed with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Gideon Gono who accused him of money laundering after he performed what’s known as ‘miracle money’, whereby he produces money and other valuables like diamonds and gold.

Angel lives a lavish life with luxury cars, private jets and expensive homes. He was accused of money laundering and fraud by a former member of his church in 2014.

His other scandals include sexual misconduct allegations from one of his female congregants.

Zimbabwean elite society is a complex web of high political, economic – both legal and illegal – interactions and mutual dependencies, says a professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Stephen Chan.

“The foundation of multiple Christian churches that do not exactly preach Jesus’s message of poverty gives all of this a fig leaf of riches and power being a donation from God. Angel is simply one example of this syndrome of interaction where politics, economy and worship have all become corrupt,” he says. “Jesus did say that it is easier for a camel to enter a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Rich angels too, no doubt.”

“Angel represents a breed of thugs that hide behind the church whilst making money through illegal means,” says Nhachi.

“If you look at the top 10 richest people in Africa, it is dominated by people in the church business. So you wonder whether such wealth is from congregants or there is an illegal side hustle as was shown by Angel and Pattini,” he adds.

‘Angel is untouchable’

In April, the government froze the financial assets and bank accounts of individuals implicated in the documentary including Angel, Pattni and Simon Rudland to pave the way for investigations.

By May, the government had reversed its move saying investigations had stopped as there was no wrongdoing.

Parliament Speaker Jacob Mudenda also blocked legislators from conducting their own independent investigations. After pressure from civil society groups in the UK, authorities in London opened an investigation.

Many well-connected people in Zimbabwe were implicated in the documentary and are close to Mnangagwa, Chan says. “To punish one without punishing all the others would be selective. To punish all would be to cause huge tensions in Zimbabwean high society,” he says.

“Angel does not represent the best of Zimbabwe, nor imbue a sense of trust,” says Piers Pigou, a Southern Africa Programme head at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.

“He and his sidekicks reinforce perceptions that criminal enterprise is thriving under [Mnangagwa’s administration],” he adds. That has been the case with Zimbabwe’s ruling party Zanu PF that those with serious criminal activities are not brought to book, Nhachi says.

“I feel Angel knows too much. His appointment was not beneficial to the country but to certain individuals,” he says, adding: “The fact that Angel is based in the UK makes him more dangerous if they try to bring him down.”

Speaking at a press conference in Harare in April, Angel’s lawyer Lovemore Madhuku denied the allegations.

“My client wants it to be put right across on record that he has never ever done anything on behalf of the President, no deal on behalf of the President, no activities on behalf of the President,” he said.

“My client wants to make it clear that he has no relationship whatsoever with members of the President’s family. He only has a relationship with the President. He actually has never met the First Lady.”

Madhuku added that Angel had never been involved in any criminal activities.

“More particularly, he would like it to be stated that he has not been involved in any form of gold dealing or gold smuggling nor has he ever engaged in money laundering. The insinuations in the Al Jazeera documentary are wholly baseless.”

Madhuku said after realising that the investors in the documentary were not real, Angel decided to play along.

“The actions in the documentary are consistent with a classified national intelligence operation which was meant to see how far they would go. […] In the documentary, there was no call which was made. There was no call to the First Lady for example. There was no call to Henrietta Rushwaya. These were decoys that were put in an intelligence operation. Even the statements that you hear, they are not real.”

Other businesspeople like Pattni, and companies such as Fidelity Printers and Refiners featured in the documentary denied any wrongdoing, according to Al Jazeera. Others who featured prominently in the documentary also did not respond to Al Jazeera‘s request for comment.

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