The Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) national executive has defended its decision to reinstate its president, Ms Henrietta Rushwaya, who stands accused of gold smuggling.
Ms Rushwaya, who is currently out on $100 000 bail coupled with movement restrictions, is being charged of gold smuggling, illegal possession of gold and bribery arising from her arrest on October 26 last year at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport when four bars of gold weighing 6kg were found in her possession en-route to Dubai.
She is jointly charged with businessman Mr Ali Muhammad with whom the ZMF signed a corporation agreement and two security details who are accused of helping her through the VIP route at the airport.
Following her arrest last year, the ZMF moved in and suspended her immediately until finalisation of the matter or the expiry of her term of office.
However, council met yesterday and decided that she be reinstated. Ms Rushwaya did not attend yesterday's meeting.
Speaking after a special meeting of the ZMF executive, the federation's secretary general Mr Morgan Mugawu, said the decision to reinstate Ms Rushwaya was arrived at on the basis that she remains innocent until proven guilty.
"As you know, we had suspended our president Madam Henrietta Rushwaya last year in October," said Mr Mugawu.
"Now, as a national executive we sat and considered that she is out on bail and unanimously agreed that she be reinstated.
"We arrived at this decision in accordance with our organisation's constitution and also anchored on the fact that she remains innocent until proven guilty," he said.
Probed on whether this will not put the name of the federation into disrepute, Mr Mugawu said the executive has "an obligation to see to it that whenever available all office bearers are allowed to carry out their mandates as was directed by the last congress."
"We are not saying we condone the charges she faces, which I must restate that they so far remain allegations until they pass the test of a competent court of law, but what we are saying is that she is a product of congress and should be allowed to carry out her mandate.
"We are not necessarily going back on our previous decision which culminated in the suspension but the fact of the matter is that her incarceration had meant that she could not fulfil her mandate but now she is available," he said.
ZMF is the umbrella body that brings together small scale miners in the country and its operations are key to the attainment of the country's mining targets.
Government is on record saying the contribution of the sector is particularly important in the sense that the geology of the country detects that some rich mineral deposits are more amenable to small scale mining than conglomerate operations.