US sanctions Tagwirei and others for corruption

Phillipa Jaja

Kudakwashe Tagwirei and four other associates have been hit with sanctions by the US whilst seventeen individuals have been removed from the sanctions list amidst the ongoing US-Africa Leaders’ summit.

The US Treasury Department sanctioned Tagwirei’s wife Sandra Mpunga along with Nqobile Magwizi, Obey Chimuka and Emmerson Mnangagwa Jr for their direct involvement with Tagwirei and his company, Sakunda Holdings.

In a statement released by the Seal of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) affirmed that it had designated four Zimbabwean individuals and two Zimbabwean entities which automatically results in all property and interests in property of the designated persons located in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons being blocked and to be reported to OFAC.

“Today, OFAC designated Sandra Mpunga, Nqobile Magwizi, Fossil Agro, Fossil Contracting, and Obey Chimuka, for their ties to the previously designated individual Kudakwashe Tagwirei and his company, Sakunda Holdings.

“OFAC designated Tagwirei in August 2020 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, the Government of Zimbabwe; and Sakunda for being owned or controlled by Tagwirei.

Tagwirei has utilized his relationships with high-level Zimbabwean officials to gain state contracts and receive favoured access to hard currency, including U.S. dollars.

“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 U.S. dollars.”

OFAC’s designation of Tagwirei’s other associates were justified as follows:
“Sandra Mpunga is Tagwirei’s wife. Together they created Sakunda, which is a neologism of Sandra and Tagwirei’s abbreviated first name, “Kuda”.

Mpunga has served as the executive director of Sakunda and together with Tagwirei is the sole beneficial owner of the company. Mpunga was designated pursuant to E.O. 13469 for being the spouse of Tagwirei.

“Magwizi has served as the chief marketing and public relations officer of Sakunda as well as Mpunga’s executive assistant. In the spring of 2022, Magwizi was serving as a project coordinator for Sakunda. Nqobile Magwizi was designated pursuant to E.O. 13469 for acting for or behalf of Sakunda.

“Fossil Agro has supplied the Government of Zimbabwe’s Command Agriculture Program, a state farm subsidy largely financed by Sakunda which has failed to account for billions of dollars in disbursements. The Government of Zimbabwe awarded Fossil Contracting nearly $40 million in contracts in 2021. Fossil Agro and Fossil Contracting were designated pursuant to E.O. 13469 for providing material, logistical, or technical support to the Government of Zimbabwe.

“Chimuka owns Fossil Contracting and is also its director and is the CEO and director of Fossil Agro. Chimuka is a long time business partner of Tagwirei and is considered part of Tagwirei’s inner circle. Chimuka also sits on the board and serves as director of several of Tagwirei’s companies.

Obey Chimuka was designated pursuant to E.O. 13469 for acting for or on behalf of Fossil Agro, Fossil Contracting, and Tagwirei.

“Emmerson Mnangagwa, Jr. is President Mnangagwa’s son and has been in charge of the president’s business interests related to Tagwirei. Mnangagwa, Jr. was designated pursuant to E.O. 13391 for being an immediate family member of the Zimbabwean president and OFAC-blocked Emmerson Mnangagwa.”

OFAC said it had removed seventeen individuals from the SDN list as they no longer undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes.

“Additionally, OFAC has determined that the seventeen individuals being removed from the SDN list no longer undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions or meet any of the other criteria for designation under OFAC’s Zimbabwe sanctions program.”

Under Secretary of the Treasury Brian E. Nelson said the sanctions were meant to implement behaviour change crucial for a prosperous Zimbabwe.

“We urge the Zimbabwean government to take meaningful steps towards creating a peaceful, prosperous, and politically vibrant Zimbabwe, and to address the root causes of many of Zimbabwe’s ills: corrupt elites and their abuse of the country’s institutions for their personal benefit,”

“The goal of sanctions is behaviour change. Today’s actions demonstrate our support for a transparent and prosperous Zimbabwe.”

Being removed from the SDN list no longer undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes and institutions or meet any of the other criteria for designation under OFAC’s Zimbabwe sanctions program.
However, Tagwirei has consistently absolved himself of corruption and claimed prosecution for supporting Mnangagwa’s government in recent remarks he made at graduation event at Solusi University.

Sakunda was established in 2005 by Kudakwashe Tagwirei and is involved in fuel supply, mining, agricultural financing, banking, public infrastructure.

The US department of State in a press statement on its website said that the Zimbabwe sanctions program targets human rights abusers and those who undermine democratic processes or facilitate corruption. 

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