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Mnangagwa’s association with dodgy characters persists



PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s association with dodgy characters continues, with the latest being his recent appearance with controversial businessman Wicknell Chivayo — a convicted criminal — at official state functions.


Mnangagwa appeared shoulder to shoulder with Chivayo receiving Kenyan President William Ruto at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo. A day before, Mnangagwa had also appeared with Chivayo touring the ZITF stands.

Before that, during the Easter celebrations of the Zion Christian Church in Mbungu, Mnangagwa again appeared with Chivayo on the podium, with social media posts suggesting they used the same presidential private jet to travel.

When Mnangagwa toured a grain milling plant in Tynwald, Harare, co-run by his younger brother Patrick and another businessman from the Midlands Douglas Kwande, Chivayo was also in his company, with close security details allowing him to come close to the Head of State.

After leaving school, Chivayo, who was born in 1982, is said to have begun working as a wages clerk at a local bus company in Harare at the age of 15.

Later, he engaged in illegal forex exchange deals at Harare’s Union Avenue Flea Market, which is now known as Kwame Nkrumah Avenue.

Subsequently, Chivayo was arrested in 2004 and in 2005 he was convicted for money laundering involving R837 000 by the High Court. He was slapped with a five-year jail term, with two years suspended on condition of good behaviour. He served three years.

In August 2018, Chivayo appeared at the Harare magistrates’ court facing four charges of fraud, money laundering and contravening the Exchange Control Act for receiving US$5 million from the state-owned Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) for a solar power plant project in Gwanda.

He was charged together with his company Intratrek Zimbabwe and pleaded not guilty to the charges when he appeared before magistrate Elisha Singano. He was found not guilty in the high-profile case.

In a turn of events, Chivayo approached the High Court and sued the ZPC for US$25 million for “breach and repudiation of contract” by making claims it had been prejudiced of that money.

Justice Siyabonga Paul Msithu ruled in his favour in January last year and took a swipe at the ZPC for “frustrating its contractor who was awarded a tender that was sanctioned by the country’s State Procurement Board”.

Two of Mnangagwa’s close allies were in in 2021 named in a landmark investigation exposing international secret deals, tax evasions and hidden wealth, adding to the growing list of his associates involved in dodgy dealings.

Last year, Gold Mafia, a four-episode investigative news series by Al Jazeera, which exposed gold smuggling, money laundering and corruption, exposed Mnangagwa’s association with dodgy characters implicated in financial crimes.

The investigation showed that different gold smuggling syndicates looting gold and salting away proceeds to offshore accounts have one common thread — links to Mnangagwa.

Main characters in the film who sucked Mnangagwa into the vortex of action include his own envoy and ambassador-at-large Uebert Angel, a self-styled prophet who was a key interlocutor throughout the documentary, Rikki Doolan, Ewan Macmillan (Mr Gold), Kamlesh Pattni (Gold Dealer Brother Paul) and Alistair Mathias (Gold Trader — The Architect).

Mnangagwa’s wife Auxillia, and his gold baron ally Pedzai “Scott” Sakupwanya (New Mr Gold) kept the President firmly at the centre of action in the last episode.

One gold smuggler described Mnangagwa — referred to in some instances as Mr Jones — as his business partner. Another talked of him as an on-and-off partner whom he still meets. A third said he had to keep the President in the loop about gold smuggling operations.

In 2021, two of Mnangagwa’s close allies were also named in a landmark investigation exposing international secret deals, tax evasions and hidden wealth, adding to the growing list of his associates involved in dodgy dealings.

These were his then deputy chief secretary for administration and finance Martin Rushwaya, who is now the chief secretary to Mnangagwa and cabinet, and to whom he is related.

The two were exposed in what was dubbed the Pandora Papers, an investigation conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) — an ensemble of 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries.

They went through more than 11.9 million documents leaked from 14 offshore financial services firms. ICIJ found that 35 heads of state and government and more than 300 politicians have set up offshore structures and trusts in tax havens from the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Seychelles, to Hong Kong and Belize.

There were emails, memos, incorporation records, share certificates, compliance reports and complex diagrammes showing labyrinthine corporate structures. ICIJ reported that Rushwaya created Greatgem Corp in the Seychelles in 2010 with the help of a Moscow law firm.

The company was accused of facilitating the Zimbabwean military’s secret diamond dealings and off-budget financing.

Rautenbach, who was Mnangagwa’s ally even during the days of the Democratic Republic of Congo war, in which they were both mentioned in reports as having looted diamonds from the country, was accused of hiding his wealth in an offshore family trust under the guise of it being payment to his wife for her contribution in building the family wealth.

“In 2013, one of Zimbabwe’s richest men and arguably one of the most controversial business figures in southern Africa, Muller Conrad ‘Billy’ Rautenbach, donated multimillion-dollar financial investments in his coal and ethanol businesses to his wife. This restructuring was explained by the need to ‘compensate’ her for her role in building the family’s wealth,” the AmaBungane Centre for Investigative Journalism report reads.

Mnangagwa also seems to have an appetite for opaque deals from shady shelf companies and dodgy businesspersons, including British-registered Coven Energy Limited, which was awarded a US$1.3 billion deal to build Zimbabwe’s second fuel pipeline.

It was then revealed that the company was incorporated on 25 August last year, with assets amounting to £100. Coven Energy’s name has been added to the list of foreign companies awarded massive projects with no traceable track record.

Since Mnangagwa’s ascension in 2017, many of the companies that have signed mega-deals have either been connected to the President, his family or cronies in government. Nothing much has come out of the deals partly because of the questionable track record of the investors involved.

During the start of his tenure, Mnangagwa claimed he had clinched US$11 billion worth of business commitments, the bulk of which were murky deals, spearheaded by dodgy characters.

In June that year, Mnangagwa’s crony Lucas Pouroulis signed a controversial US$4.2 billion deal with the government, paving way for his investment vehicle Karo Resources to grab mineral claims stretching over 23 903 hectares previously held by Zimplats along the Great Dyke.

The US$4.2 billion cost had been plucked out of thin air, raising questions over the value of the investment. The Pourolis family holds a 42% stake in Tharisa Plc, which has only managed to mobilise US$8 million for the implementation of the platinum project.

In 2005, Pourolis made a fortune after acquiring South Africa’s Impala Platinum subsidiary Elandsfontein Platinum Project for US$15 million, before selling it two years later for US$1.1 billion to Xstrata in a speculative deal. Karo Resources is a company registered in Cyprus and Guernsey, a tax haven blacklisted by the European Union.

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