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Mnangagwa, Chiwenga allies paid millions after US$120 million chrome deal

A new investigative report by The Sentry has exposed how South African tycoon Zunaid Moti paid more than US$3 million to entities and individuals liked to Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga after a US$120 million chrome deal signed during the peak of the military coup that ousted late former President Robert Mugabe in November 2017.

According to the report released on Friday, Moti, a South African chrome miner paid US$3 million to firms linked to Mnangagwa and Chiwenga following a US$120 million deal signed in November 2017.

The Sentry started by describing Moti as a man who is fond of fast cars and cigars, before stating that his main business in Zimbabwe was processing chrome.

“In 2014 he bought 70% of African Chrome Fields (ACF), a chrome mining outfit based in central Zimbabwe,” read the report.

“By 2015, ACF was a well-connected firm: it had formed a joint venture with the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and hired then-Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s son as a consultant.

“Businessman Lishon Chipango—identified by a source as then-ZDF commander General Constantine Chiwenga’s ‘investment manager’—indirectly owned shares in ACF via Spincash Investments, a Moti Group holding company that held the remaining 30% of ACF.”

It is further reported that Moti signed a deal with ruling party benefactor Kudakwashe “Kuda” Tagwirei on November 17, 2017—in the middle of the week-long coup that brought President Mnangagwa and Vice President Chiwenga to power—in which Tagwirei paid US$120 million11 for Spincash’s 30% of ACF.”

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“A politically connected industrialist who later became an advisor to Mnangagwa, Tagwirei was the subject of separate corruption allegations relating to a power plant and an agricultural program at the time of the deal.

“The Spincash deal was followed by a money-moving operation in which Moti’s companies paid US$130 million in 595 installments to a mix of established firms, companies whose records are missing, and politically linked entities in Zimbabwe.”

The report states that, in December 2017 and January 2018, payments included US$1 million to Mnangagwa’s farm and US$2 million to a company controlled by Chipango and someone reported to be Chiwenga’s niece.

“In a separate commercial transaction in February 2018, ACF also paid $100,000 to a senior judge, Justice George Chiweshe, as part of a wider deal to mine chrome in concession areas controlled by a firm he chaired. 33

“The timing of the November 17, 2017, deal raises the question of whether there is a connection to the coup. Following Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) factional infighting throughout the year, Mnangagwa fled Zimbabwe after being fired as vice president by President Robert Mugabe on November 6, 2017.

“Led by Chiwenga, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) took control of Harare on November 14 and spent the next seven days persuading Mugabe to step down. After Mugabe’s resignation on November 21, Chiweshe—who at the time was judge president of the high court—ruled that the ZDF’s actions were constitutional and annulled the earlier dismissal of Mnangagwa, paving the way for the reinstated vice president to ascend to the presidency. Five weeks later, Chiwenga became vice president.

“For the Moti Group, there are indications that the deal’s timing in the midst of the coup and the payments to some of the coup’s main protagonists were coincidental. Leaked recordings of Moti Group internal discussions about whether the timing of the deals was linked to the coup reveal staff sincerely stating that there was no connection.43 The Moti Group denied that they made any payments to politicians.

“Nevertheless, there is no question that Moti and Tagwirei flew close to the political sun. For example, the Moti Group supplied 50 vehicles to Tagwirei for use in ZANU-PF’s 2018 election campaign, albeit in what Moti said was a commercial transaction.

“The US$1 million payment to Mnangagwa’s farm—which has echoes of the unexplained cash found at South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s farm—has still not been adequately explained,” The Sentry report added.