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Tagwirei Made US$90 million In “Unlawful” Payments From RBZ

Kudakwashe Tagwirei Zimbabwe business tycoon with close connections with President Emmerson Mnangagwa

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The Sentry, a US-based anti-corruption watchdog, says Kuda Tagwirei made about $90-million in possibly unlawful payments from Zimbabwe’s central bank while running a controversial agricultural support programme.

The report: Legal Tender? The Role of Sakunda and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in Command Agriculture, published on Thursday has indicated that business tycoon, who is a close adviser to Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa used some of the profits to buy gold mines and a platinum mine.

The Sentry says:

Tagwirei’s Sakunda Holdings won the $1-billion concession to run the Command Agriculture programme in 2016 without an open tendering process.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) gave him local currency at far above the official exchange rate, in apparent violation of Zimbabwean law.

Tagwirei’s companies earned about $280-million while running Command Agriculture from 2016 to 2019. The programme was intended to boost agricultural production through the provision of inputs such as seed and fertiliser to commercial farmers. No official explanation was given for appointing an oil trading company to run an agricultural support programme.

Over the course of the three-year programme, Sakunda received $1.28-billion total – $230-million in hard currency and more than $1-billion in Treasury Bills – while providing inputs worth $1-billion: a surplus of $280-million.

One of the Treasury Bills, for $366-million, was improperly redeemed at a favourable exchange rate by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe after a new law that should have reduced the US dollar value of such assets, the report said.

RBZ gave Tagwirei the preferential exchange rate for the Treasury Bills to allow one of Tagwirei’s firms to pay the government for some gold mines and a Zimbabwean military-controlled company for its share of a platinum mining joint venture with a Russian conglomerate.

What Tagwirei’s company says:

Sakunda, which denies any wrongdoing, testified in Zimbabwe’s Parliament that it received the favourable rate so that it could repay foreign suppliers – particularly of chemicals – in hard currency.

Zimbabwe’s parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC):

*Accused the RBZ and the Ministry of Finance of acting “outside the law”, a charge which they both denied.

*Said the RBZ acted unconstitutionally by issuing Treasury Bills to pay for Command Agriculture and many other projects, bypassing parliamentary approval of spending and borrowing.

*Accused the government of breaching procurement and public finance rules. In addition to the PAC, the Treasury’s own debt management office and the Auditor-General both raised similar alarms about the Command Agriculture programme and expressed concern about potential conflicts of interest.

Finance ministry officials told the PAC that Sakunda had been chosen to run Command Agriculture without a tender process because it had said it had its own – scarce – foreign currency and so was able to supply the government on credit.

But when it was put to these financial officials that the RBZ had provided Sakunda with $1-billion of foreign currency in Treasury Bills, they could offer no satisfactory response.

The Sentry’s investigation was assisted by Zimbabwean opposition leader and former finance minister Tendai Biti who is also a former PAC chair.

–Daily Maverick

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