KUDAKWASHE Tagwirei’s influence on government in recent years has been unmatched.
The shadowy businessman has emerged one of the biggest beneficiaries of the November 2017 military coup which ousted former president Robert Mugabe, with his empire ballooning on the back of lucrative government contracts and acquisition of state resources, including mining companies formerly owned by the government.
An investigation by The Sentry – an investigative and policy team that follows dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers and seeks to shut those benefiting from violence out of the international financial system – revealed companies linked to the businessman were awarded contracts worth over US$1.6 billion by the government.
Tagwirei has close ties with both President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga. He is also very close to Mnangagwa’s sons, particularly Emmerson Junior.
Since 2017, Tagwirei has used his connections within the government to grow into the transport; mining, medical, oil, banking, logistics, as well as import/ export sectors with the businessman shielding his activities through a network of over 40 companies, some of which are registered in tax havens.
Among his companies registered in 2018 in Zimbabwe are Balesite Investments, Billheights Investments and Landela Mining Ventures.
In 2019, Tagwirei also started Landela Investments, Landela Energy and Landela Infrastructure.
These are just some of the companies listed in papers filed at the High Court of South Africa as being linked to the Sakunda Group.
Through Sakunda, Tagwirei now runs the Arundel Clinic as well as a unit at the public United Bulawayo Hospitals.
In a space of a year in 2020, Tagwirei acquired Bindura Nickel Corporation (BNC) and Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) mines, including Jena and Sabi, as well as Zim Alloys and Metallion Gold mines.
Tagwirei also bought Great Dyke Investments and Freda Rebecca Gold Mine, among others.
Through Sakunda, Tagwirei was also controlling the Feruka-Harare pipeline with the support of Trafigura, a Swiss-registered international commodities company.
Tagwirei’s tentacles also spread into the financial sector, after buying into CBZ as well as ZB late last year.
His companies have enjoyed tax brakes and special treatment from the government.
“On January 27, 2021, over a year after Landela Mining Ventures had bought half of the platinum mine, Zimbabwe granted Great Dyke Investments (GDI) a five-year corporate income tax holiday and exempted its shareholders resident in Zimbabwe from resident shareholders’ taxes on GDI dividends—retroactively applied to January 1, 2020,” the report by The Sentry report read.
“In addition to alleged business dealings with the Zimbabwean military, Tagwirei appears to have the ability to contact senior civilian officials in Zimbabwe at short notice, particularly at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ). Such high-level access, together with the pattern of previous decisions, raises the possibility of state capture, when the public realm—particularly regulatory, legal, and public policy decision-making—has been influenced to benefit private interests.”
When Tagwirei’s father passed away in May 2018, cabinet had to be postponed as the executive, ministers and senior government officials all drove to Shurugwi for the burial, showing his influence.
After his placement on sanctions by the United States last year, Zimbabwean government officials went over board in defending Tagwirei and his operations.
The businessman has gone further to hide some of his business ventures, including in mining, behind South African businesspeople and offshore structures in Mauritius and the Cayman Islands, away from the prying eyes of Western governments and public scrutiny.
The US Department of Treasury in an August 2020 Press release said Tagwirei had gotten leverage to expand his businesses through his links with the government, as America imposed sanctions on the businessman.
“Tagwirei has utilised his relationships with high-level Zimbabwean officials to gain state contracts and receive favoured access to hard currency, including US dollars. In turn, Tagwirei has provided high-priced items, such as expensive cars, to senior-level Zimbabwean government officials,” the release read.
“Since former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s 2017 departure, Tagwirei used a combination of opaque business dealings and his ongoing relationship with President Mnangagwa to grow his business empire dramatically and rake in millions of US dollars.”
The Sentry report also uncovered how Tagwirei has used his government networks to hide his financial interests in Zimbabwe’s new public-private partnership mining company, Kuvimba Mining House, with Zimbabwe’s Finance ministry reportedly collaborating to deflect public scrutiny from these arrangements.
Tagwirei did not respond to questions.