PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga or their allies and relatives allegedly received US$3 million from a controversial South African businessman, Zunaid Moti at the height of the 2017 coup that toppled the late Robert Mugabe.
Moti has extensive business interests in Zimbabwe and was awarded controversial contracts towards the end of Mugabe’s reign.
The saga has also sucked in a Supreme Court justice, who was allegedly paid to sanitise the 2017 coup that brought Mnangagwa to power.
The information is contained in a collection of confidential papers obtained by The Sentry — a United States-based investigative and policy organisation known for investigating how resources firms and predatory organisations siphon wealth out of poor countries.
It said the trove of documents in its possession show that Moti, the founder of African Chrome Fields (ACF), could have moved up to US$130 million into the accounts of 28 companies and four individuals in Zimbabwe from 2017.
Some of the transactions took place while the November 2017 coup was in progress, raising suspicions that he may have helped fund the insurrection to gain favours from the would-be new rulers of the country.
The Sentry claimed that records of some of the firms that received funds from Moti’s Spincash Investments and ACF were now missing from the companies registry in Harare.
Our sister paper, the Zimbabwe Independent, has previously reported that hundreds of corporate documents belonging to the Moti Group were allegedly taken by a South African executive, Clinton van Niekerk, sparking legal battles for their return in both South Africa and Zimbabwe.
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There were fears that the documents had been delivered to The Sentry.
The trove of leaked internal documents exposed by The Sentry laid bare the close ties between Moti and Zimbabwe’s highest-ranking politicians.
The documents bring to light evidence of dubious multimillion-dollar transactions, a sustained effort to accumulate political influence by Moti.
Mnangagwa officially launched ACF’s aluminothermic plant in Kwekwe which produces up to 12 000 tonnes of low sulphur, high-grade ferrochrome annually without using electricity in July 2018.
The group is also in the middle of negotiating a venture based on its lithium concession in Zimbabwe with an unnamed Chinese company, which could lead to the setting up of a battery factory at a cost of more than US$1 billion.
The Sentry reported that by 2015, ACF had become a well-connected firm: it had formed a joint venture with the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and hired then-Vice President Mnangagwa’s son as a consultant.
A businessman who was Chiwenga’s “investment manager”—indirectly owned shares in ACF via Spincash Investments, a Moti Group holding company that held the remaining 30% of ACF.
Moti’s firms allegedly paid $130 million in 595 instalments to a mix of established firms, companies whose records are missing, and politically-linked entities in Zimbabwe.
“In December 2017 and January 2018, the payments included $1 million to Mnangagwa’s farm and $2 million to a company controlled by Chiwengs’s’ investment manager’ and someone reported to be the retired general’s niece.
In a separate commercial transaction in February 2018, ACF also allegedly paid $100 000 to Justice George Chiweshe, as part of a wider deal to mine chrome in concession areas controlled by a firm he chaired.
“The timing of the November 17, 2017, deal raises the question of whether there is a connection to the coup,” The Sentry reported.
“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.
Mnangagwa named Chiwenga as his deputy, five weeks later.
The military said the reason it staged the coup against Mugabe was to remove criminals that were allegedly surrounding the President at the time, but only a handful of people were arrested.
The latest revelations came a few weeks after international broadcaster Al Jazeera aired a documentary exposing alleged money laundering and gold smuggling activities by syndicates that claimed to have links with Mnangagwa and his family.