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President Emmerson Mnangagwa with CIO director-general Isaac Moyo (right).


CIO needs urgent reform



ZIMBABWE’S state security agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), needs urgent reform to ensure transparency and accountability in its structures and operations in terms of the constitution and the law, an international investigative organisation says.


The Sentry, an American investigative organisation which seeks to disable multinational predatory networks that benefit from violent conflict, repression, and kleptocracy, also says the CIO must close its shadowy companies which it uses for various purposes, but whose operations are murky.

The Sentry recommends secret CIO companies be closed to ensure openeness in its work because it is publicly funded through a framework rooted in legislation and parliamentary processes.

In a report released last Thursday,  its second work on Zimbabwe’s state security agency’s business networks and funding structures, the report says it is in the public interest to ensure reasonable accountability for the publicly funded CIO The NewsHawks got the report well in advance and ran it after the embargo.

 This came after The Sentry two weeks ago released another report on the activities of the CIO and its front organisation, Forever Associates Zimbabwe (FAZ) which helped President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu PF win fraudulent and disputed elections.

 The Sentry conducted deeper investigations building on the recent reporting done by The NewsHawks. This is acknowledged in the report.

The NewsHawks was also fully aware of and had a list of the labyrinth of CIO company networks and their executives working with FAZ which is led by retired Brigadier-General Walter Tapfumaneyi.

The Sentry’s latest report says: “Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) likely has a secret stream of money, The Sentry has found. Publicly available information suggests that the CIO controls Terrestrial Holdings, a business conglomerate of companies involved in hemp, solar energy, coal mining, tourism, and golf.

“The CIO’s remit includes both domestic and international intelligence matters, and its agents have been accused of partisan and violent behaviour in the past. For instance, in the 2023 election, one of the agency’s leaders helped establish a ruling party affiliate criticised for intimidating rural voters.

“While the bulk of the CIO’s funds come from the official budget, the agency — which has a dedicated investment branch — has been known to engage in private business ventures as a source of off-budget financing. In the past, CIO joint ventures have been involved in mushroom farming, exporting baby elephants, and diamond mining. Most recently, CIO-linked companies Terrestrial Mining and Whitelime Mining have been awarded coal mining concessions covering 50 000 hectares near Lake Kariba in western Zimbabwe, an area close to large proposed and existing coal-fired power plants. A representative for both Terrestrial Holdings and Terrestrial Mining said that claims of CIO control or ownership were not true.

 “The existence of an autonomous CIO business network matters because the agency — which has reportedly engaged in election-related intimidation — requires civilian control, including full financial oversight and transparency, to prevent abuse. Security forces with their own sources of revenue can more easily go rogue.”

The Sentry says secret CIO companies must be closed to ensure transparency and accountability in how it is publicly funded through a new framework rooted in legislation and parliamentary processes.

CIO-linked companies: – Terrestrial Holdings; – Terrestrial Mining; – Whitelime Mining; – Chimanimani Logistics; – Chapel Mining; – Sino Zimbabwe; – Sino Zim Cotton Holdings; – Sino Zim Diamonds; – Terrestrial Safaris; – Rudgold Investments; -Dashville; and -Todware Investments. Transparency and accountability are essential in intelligence agencies’ operations for several reasons.

They prevent abuses and impunity.  These help prevent intelligence agencies from engaging in unlawful activities, such as mass surveillance, abduction and torture, or extrajudicial killings. 

Ensuring that also builds trust between intelligence agencies, governments, and citizens, ensuring their activities align with democratic values and human rights in line with the constitution and the law.

Oversight and scrutiny are important. They enable legislative and judicial bodies to exercise effective supervision and imposing checks and balances, hence preventing intelligence agencies from becoming a “state within a state.”

This also helps in the protection of individual rights.  Intelligence agencies must do their owl, but respect individuals’ privacy, data protection, and other fundamental rights.

Promoting accountability within intelligence agencies and encouraging a culture of responsibility and answerability is important. This prevents abuse of power and impunity.

 Whistleblowing creates an environment where whistleblowers can report unethical or illegal activities without fear of retaliation.

These issues improve intelligence agencies’ effectiveness by promoting a culture of openness, collaboration, and continuous learning. Implementing transparency and accountability in intelligence agencies’ operations can be achieved through:  Legislative reforms; independent oversight bodies; public disclosure of activities; whistleblower protection;  internal accountability mechanisms;  international cooperation and standards; civil society engagement and scrutiny.

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