All that glitters

African Union taps Zimbabwe preacher Uebert Angel despite gold smuggling claims

By Veneranda Langa

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Posted on August 4, 2023 07:42

 © Uebert Angel (via X)
Uebert Angel (via X)

Fellow Zimbabwean Fortune Charumbira, president of the Pan-African Parliament, fronted controversial Uebert Angel for an ambassador post.

The African Union’s choice of prosperity gospel preacher Uebert Angel to help mediate conflicts across the continent creates its own set of tensions amid swirling allegations of ill-gotten wealth.

The self-styled British-Zimbabwean “prophet” has been appointed the Pan-African Parliament’s ambassador for Interfaith Dialogue and Humanitarian Affairs, a top post aimed at uniting communities riven by xenophobia, ethnic clashes and religious intolerance. The head of the parliament, an advisory body to the AU, is defending the choice of the charismatic church leader who brands himself as the “godfather of the modern-day prophetic movement” despite reports of alleged illegal activity.

The Zimbabwe-born, UK-based Angel was a key figure in an Al Jazeera investigation into gold smuggling in southern Africa earlier this year. He is accused of using his connections with top officials, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, to help launder dirty cash in exchange for smuggling gold out of the sanctioned country.

Wasn’t me

But 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.”

Mnangagwa tapped Angel to be his presidential envoy and Ambassador-at-Large to Europe and the Americas in 2021.

The parliament’s president, fellow Zimbabwean Fortune Charumbira, also dismissed the gold smuggling allegations as hearsay that doesn’t negate Angel’s purported good works in his home country. 

Angel was evaluated “on his accomplishments and his ability to contribute to the organ’s goals rather than solely focusing on allegations made by outside sources with limited knowledge of Africa’s plight,” Charumbira tells The Africa Report.

Friends in high places

Some Zimbabwe watchers believe Charumbira is behind Angel’s appointment to the parliamentary post. 

Obert Masaraure, a spokesman for the good governance group Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, tells The Africa Report that the decision reduces the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) ambassador position to a “big joke”. 

“A man exposed in the gold mafia documentary cannot be trusted with such a huge responsibility. One wonders how such a decision was made,” Masaraure says. 

“African leaders continue to miss opportunities to demonstrate seriousness and commitment to their duties.,” he adds. “One can guess that this is another case of nepotism since a Zimbabwean is at the helm of PAP. Angel cannot promote dialogue at a time when people in Africa now associate him with the scandal.”

Zambian democracy activist Joseph Kalimbwe is among the critics of the parliamentary decision.

“Angel said [to Al Jazeera undercover reporters] he intended to smuggle gold out of the country but now he is being appointed by the PAP,” Kalimbwe said in a video posted on Twitter on 19 July. Members of PAP were not consulted and they do not know about the appointment of Angel.” But Angel’s lawyer Madhuku said after realising that the investors in the documentary were not real, Angel decided to play along.

Kalimbwe went on to denounce Charumbira as a “compromised man”.

“What we saw in the appointment of Uebert Angel was a slap in the face,” he said. “The appointment is something we must continue to fight because Charumbira is breaking the rules and protocols of PAP.” 

Defending Angel

Charumbira says proper procedures were followed in Angel’s appointment.

“I understand that there might be concerns surrounding Uebert Angel’s involvement in the gold mafia documentary,” the Pan-African Parliament president tells The Africa Report. “However, it is necessary to consider certain facts before passing judgement. Firstly, it is important to recognise that Angel was cleared by the Financial Intelligence Unit [of Zimbabwe], indicating that there was no evidence of his involvement.”

He went on to defend Angel’s record as the head of a global GoodNews Church ministry with 3.5 million members and 507 branches worldwide, which he said demonstrates the 44-year-old evangelical businessman’s “immense power to inspire and bring people together.”

This includes philanthropic work across Africa and Asia, where Angel’s business ventures donate food and pay school fees for underprivileged children. Recently he donated 5,600 food parcels to supporters of Zanu-PF at a rally for Mnangagwa’s presidential bid ahead of the 23 August elections.

Angel is also the author of 20 books and the founder of Millionaire Academy, which purports to provide instruction on how to become a successful entrepreneur.

“Angel has demonstrated his ability to lead and unite communities through his interfaith work,” Charumbira says. “It becomes imperative for PAP to judiciously evaluate Angel based on his accomplishments and his potential to contribute towards the organisation’s objectives.”

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