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Munatsi worked in highly toxic operational environment

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Munatsi worked in highly toxic operational environment

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THE late Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (Zida) chief executive Douglas Munatsi — who was close to President Emmerson Mnangagwa— worked in a volatile and toxic political environment around the centre of power as he got caught up in the vortex of a fierce raging power struggle.

OWEN GAGARE

Munatsi was close to Mnangagwa and his coterie that supported him to the hilt during the November 2017 coup when he ousted the late former president Robert Mugabe.

Many of Mnangagwa’s political and business allies were later appointed to cabinet, ruling Zanu PF party positions and state institutions.

Munatsi was appointed to head Zida — to be the investment face of the country — and into the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe monetary policy committee, while his colleagues were slotted into the moribund Presidential Advisory Council and other positions.

No sooner had Munatsi settled into office than he found himself facing the toxic environment which he had plunged into in an attempt to serve his country and find new opportunities to thrive. The explosive situation did not unnerve Munatsi, who always vowed to fight those who were trying to disrupt him in his new position, especially people he constantly referred to “matsotsi” whom he accused of being corrupt looters.

He never specified who they were.

In June last year, Munatsi met a journalist from The NewsHawks and a former reporter now in the corporate sector at Bolero pub in Newlands, Harare.

The meeting eventually shifted next door, to Legends pub. The discussion focused on Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s visit to Munatsi’s farm in April.

The NewsHawks was investigating stories which we intended to begin publishing in October last year.

This was after the journalists had called Munatsi enquiring about Chiwenga’s visit to his farm which had reportedly ruffled feathers in Mnangagwa’s camp.

Over lunch and drinks, Munatsi explained that Chiwenga had asked to visit his Kunatsa Farm at Matepatepa in Bindura North, Mashonaland Central province.

Munatsi explained the context of Chiwenga’s visit, but confirmed that afterwards he had received a warning from “security circles” as to why he had invited the Vice-President before Mnangagwa came to his farm.

Munatsi had earlier last year visited Mnangagwa’s Precabe Farm in Sherwood, Kwekwe, Midlands province.

Munatsi told journalists that there were people who were not happy that he was interacting with Chiwenga and the late Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri, and were threatening him. He said they were from “security, military intelligence”, in his own words.

After the discussion, Munatsi asked that the story not be written until yet another meeting as it would create problems for him.

In the meantime, he wanted to find a solution to the problem: Invite Mnangagwa to his farm. It was going to be easy because he had visited Mnangagwa’s farm at the beginning of the year.

As a result, Munatsi invited Mnangagwa to visit his farm on 28 August 2020, which he did.

This was designed and calculated to keep at bay those who were now accusing him of defecting to the Chiwenga camp, while assuring Mnangagwa that he was still loyal to him.

Munatsi promised to speak to the journalists again after Mnangagwa’s visit. That did not happen. But what was clear in the whole story was that he was now caught up in toxic Zanu PF power struggle politics and factionalism, although he was not a political player.

Munatsi was loyal to Mnangagwa, although Chiwenga visited him since he was farming in Mashonaland Central, Chiwenga’s political heartland.

Mnangagwa draws his support from his home provinces, the Midlands and Masvingo, dominated by his supposed Karanga power base. Chiwenga supposedly commands support from Mashonaland provinces accupied by his Zezuru ethnic social base.

However, support for these leaders also intersects and cross-cuts geographical and ethnic boundaries. Zimbabwe’s politics is highly ethnic and toxic. Munatsi, who grew up in Harare, Gweru and Masvingo, apparently came from Midlands, Mnangagwa’s home province.

Apart from political entanglements, Munatsi was not on good terms with business rivals around Mnangagwa over access to the President, business deals and Zida issues.

There was serious rivalry and hostilities among Mnangagwa’s business allies who were jostling for access to him and resources, as well as control.

Mnangagwa said Munatsi died in “unclear circumstances”, voicing his shock and displeasure.

“The incident about Chiwenga’s visit to his farm and the reaction of security players was telling; it had put Doug in the spotlight and tight spot,” a source said.

“Munatsi was factored into Zanu PF factionalism and battles, which is volatile. Although he was a businessman not interested too much in politics, his rivals saw him as a threat, especially because he wanted to come with a major business plan and programme to support Mnangagwa and gain control of the situation around him. Doug was going big.”

Another source said: “That he found himself engulfed in toxic political, business and corruption fights is not in doubt. The only question is whether that played a part in his murder or not. Quite clearly it did. He was killed for political and business reasons.”

Munatsi planned to come up with an agricultural programme bigger than Command Agriculture.

When Mnangagwa visited Kunatsa Estates, Munatsi said agriculture could be restored to its heyday if people supported the Vision 2030 blueprint. Munatsi also said he had drawn a lot of inspiration from Mnangagwa’s visit, given that he was also a farmer. Kunatsa Farm employed over 100 full-time workers in addition to contract workers hired depending on need.

It produced wheat and barley on 350 and 100 hectares respectively. In his condolence message to the Munatsi family, Mnangagwa said his ally had died in “unclear circumstances”.

“A leading banker, outstanding farmer, visionary business leader the late Mr Munatsi had become our point man in operationalising our nation’s one-stop investment project for improving the investment climate and ease of doing business for our country,” he said.  

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