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Vol 64 No 15

Published 20th July 2023


ZANU-PF takes a cut of the green economy

We publish exclusive details about Vice-President Chiwenga's 'bagman' and the tortuous flow of cash from mining contracts to military pockets

Copyright © Africa Confidential 2023

Lishon Chipango
is sometimes called 'de facto investment manager' for Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga – critics of the regime would call him the former army chief's frontman.

Africa Confidential here reveals how Chipango and another financial proxy for Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) leaders, Kudakwashe Tagwirei, keep popping up in multi-million dollar mining deals involving the military. The work builds on ground-breaking research by the United States-based investigative and lobbying organisation, The Sentry (Spincash Machine). Replies were sought from the interested parties but none were received.

Tagwirei is ZANU-PF's unofficial treasurer of long standing, an industrial magnate and party donor who is involved in so many business sectors he is known as the 'Queen Bee'.

These deals enable President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Chiwenga and other ZANU-PF leaders to cash in on the minerals booming in value thanks to the digital and electric vehicle industrial revolutions – especially platinum and lithium.

The role of these minerals in ZANU-PF's control of the Zimbabwe economy raises important ethical questions for western governments and industries just as urgent as earlier controversies over blood diamonds and conflict minerals, if not more so, thanks to their indispensability in the efforts to create a global zero-carbon future.

The details of the networks of holding companies and mining concerns and farms revealed here involve suspect enterprises that Africa Confidential has been reporting for many years.

The Sentry revealed in April that a Chipango shell company received US$2 million following a 2017 chrome-mining deal in which Tagwirei paid $120m to Spincash, a company controlled by Zunaid Moti, a controversial South African whose attempts to close down reporting of his business practices based on leaked documents were recently struck down by the courts in South Africa.

Moti had also hired Mnangagwa's son as a consultant in 2014 for his African Chrome Fields mining company until 2019 at $10,000 per month.

Chipango was also, we can reveal, the nominee shareholder of a military-controlled company to which Tagwirei paid $220m in a platinum deal.

Some of the details, unexpectedly, were revealed by court papers in divorce proceedings. One of Chiwenga's many divorces revealed that he and Chipango are co-directors of the Vice-President's property firms:  Dominicus Investments which owned industrial property, and the holding company for Chiwenga's Harare mansion (see Box, Custody battles for the loot).

Up and coming
Chipango was a talented accountant who rose rapidly through the ranks at the finance giant Old Mutual. His rise to prominence and wealth mirrors that of the changing fortunes of the Zimbabwean elite as power – and money – shifted from President Robert Mugabe and his family and followers to the circle around Chiwenga and Mnangagwa after they removed Mugabe from power in 2017.

By the 2000s Chipango headed Interfresh, an agribusiness. It was then he cemented a relationship with Chiwenga who, like Chipango, grew up in Wedza, Mashonaland East, south-east of Harare. They grew close during Interfresh's successful legal battle for US$27m in compensation after half of its citrus estate was grabbed by President Mugabe's wife, Grace Mugabe, in 2013 (AC Vol 55 No 7, Grace under fire).

Chiwenga's intervention on Interfresh's behalf was generally assumed to be the key to its win in court. Chiwenga also used his clout within the regime to pressure the then finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa, into issuing the company a US$29m Treasury Bill – in effect a grant. In return, Chiwenga received some of the proceeds of the successful legal action, insider sources in Harare said.

In 2015 Zunaid Moti's African Chrome Fields entered into a joint venture with the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, then headed by Chiwenga. Although influential and prominent, Chiwenga had not yet reached the peak of his influence, which followed the 2017 coup.

One of the main accusations against Moti – which he denies – is that he has parlayed Zimbabwean mining deals into payments to entities linked to the Zimbabwean leadership.

In the 2015 deal, Moti's companies gave Chipango shares in Spincash Investments, which in turn owned 30% of African Chrome Fields (AC Vol 60 No 23, Cashing in on the crisis). Moti denies that Chipango represents the interests of Chiwenga. In 2016 Chipango moved the shares held in his own name to Raybeam Investments, a firm he controlled together with an executive at a Harare shopping mall part-owned by the military.

After Tagwirei made the $120m payment to Spincash for the 30% stake mentioned above and in a deal signed during the transfer of power to Chiwenga and Mnangagwa from Mugabe, Spincash and African Chrome Fields began to make payments linked to politicians.

President Mnangagwa's farm, Pricabe Enterprises, received $1m in December 2017, while Cosmotex Investments, whose directors included Chipango and Evelyn Chakuinga (reported to be Chiwenga's niece), got $2m. We asked all the military-linked companies about the payments and received no answer. Moti claimed the payments were investments and loans, made at the direction of a bureau de change, and not corrupt.

This pattern was to be repeated in 2019. Tagwirei and his companies paid millions to a firm run by the ZDF which was connected to Chipango; again, we received no response to our communications. One question is whether senior officers were receiving money from their military companies.

Chipango was one of two nominee shareholders in military-controlled Pen East Mining, which owned half of Great Dyke Investments (GDI), a platinum mining joint venture with Russian investors (AC Vol 61 No 19, Heavy Russian metal). It is not clear whether Chipango represented the military, Chiwenga, or both.

In 2019 a delegation from Afreximbank, the pan-African multilateral lender, visited Chiwenga to discuss how to overcome the fears of potential investors concerned about the presence of the military in the platinum project. Shortly afterwards, Tagwirei's Landela Mining Ventures bought out Pen East for $220m to be paid in instalments over 10 years (AC Vol 63 No 7, Sanctioned mogul adds steel to portfolio).

Kuvimba Mining House, a public-private partnership closely linked to Tagwirei, later inherited Landela's assets – including Great Dyke Investments. The unanswered question is whether Kuvimba also assumed Landela's liabilities, including its $220m debt to Pen East.

The revelation of Chipango's involvement in Pen East sheds new light on recent strange goings-on at the state-owned Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC).

The ZCDC's chief executive was suspended in February after objecting to the efforts of board chairman Munashe Shava, also the Technical Director at Kuvimba, to have ZCDC buy 33% of Great Dyke Investments from Kuvimba for $400m.

The proposed deal required ZCDC to pay a non-refundable deposit of $111m before seeing the financial statements for Great Dyke Investments or Kuvimba. One possibility is that Kuvimba planned to reinvest all of ZCDC's cash in the GDI project. Another is that some of it could have been used to pay Pen East Mining, perhaps with Chipango still as its shareholder.

Tagwirei likely holds his stake in Kuvimba through his Pfimbi Resources, named after the Shona term for a secret stash (AC Vol 63 No 7, Sanctioned mogul adds steel to portfolio).


In the absence of transparency and a truly free press, Zimbabweans can still use divorce proceedings to peek at the wealth of their rulers. Asset declarations filed during the oft-married Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga's 2014 divorce from Jocelyn Jacobsen revealed 15 properties, 40 gold watches and 45 pairs of diamond earrings. Former finance minister Ignatius Chombo, by contrast, during his divorce in 2012 was revealed to have 98 properties, 15 vehicles, 10 companies and investments in mines and safari lodges (AC Vol 52 No 14, Durbar without elephants).

In May, divorce proceedings also lifted a corner of the veil over the Mugabe family empire. Filings submitted by former airline pilot Simba Chikore during his divorce from Robert Mugabe's only daughter, Bona Mugabe, revealed an estate worth at least US$95 million, and that doesn't include their many farms.

In his submission, Chikore claimed his personal assets amounted to just $300,000 while he put his estranged wife's estate at $74m, plus 21 farms covering 23,600 hectares – an area one-third larger than Washington DC.

The papers also revealed the couple received a $864,000 loan under Zimbabwe's controversial Command Agriculture loan programme (AC Vol 60 No 18, Cash at the generals' command). The scheme was run by Sakunda Holdings, owned by Kudakwashe Tagwirei, reportedly a former business partner of Simba's brother, Derrick Chikore, in the Dema diesel plant project (AC Vol 58 No 4, ZANU-PF digs for votes).

Under Mugabe, the Office of the President and the cabinet intervened in the procurement process to help Sakunda win the Dema contract, according to a critical audit report published by Parliament. (AC Vol 58 No 13, Trafigura aims for gas prize).

The Command Agriculture programme, as revealed in Africa Confidential at the time, was little more than a scheme administered by Tagwirei to channel yet more state funds towards the farms and business of senior members of Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF – AC Vol 60 No 18, Cash at the generals' command).

Bona Mugabe either inherited or was given her farms, a US$8m Dubai mansion and 20 Harare properties, according to Chikore. If Bona's inheritance was in the tens of millions, this raises the question as to how much the family as a whole was able to acquire, as Robert Mugabe was survived by his wife Grace and four children, including a stepson.

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