Mystery of Sanctioned Tycoon’s Assets in Zimbabwe Revival Plan
12 May 2021

In December, the government of Zimbabwe announced a multibillion-dollar project called Kuvimba Mining House Ltd. that would hold some of the nation’s most valuable gold, platinum, chrome and nickel mines and whose revenue would be used to revive the country’s moribund economy.

The venture would be 65% owned by the government and 35% by private investors, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said in a January interview, predicting it would be “highly profitable” within two years. President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in December the venture will help “in unlocking the inherent richness and value of our country’s mineral deposits,” according to the state-controlled Herald newspaper.

The announcement was met with skepticism among local journalists and some industry analysts. Decades of graft and economic turmoil have left once-prosperous Zimbabwe a ruined state. The country has little formal employment, and inflation last measured 194%. Past state works projects failed to turn things around, not least because public money had a way of disappearing into private hands. Mnangagwa’s declaration that “Zimbabwe is open for business” and promises of a fresh start after he came to power in late 2017 have come to nothing.

The government won’t say where it got the funds to cover its purchase of the mines, smelters and platinum concessions the Kuvimba venture says it now owns. Officials have provided no evidence of transactions confirming Kuvimba does in fact own the mines it says it acquired. Ncube, in interviews with Bloomberg, has declined on two separate occasions to identify the private partners, who stand to make billions of dollars from the project.

Kuvimba is held by government pension funds and Zimbabwe’s sovereign wealth fund, Ncube said in a separate interview. The pension funds haven’t disclosed what assets they’re managing and the sovereign wealth fund isn’t operational.

Previously unreported documents, emails and WhatsApp messages seen by Bloomberg help fill in some of the blanks. They show how, through a complex series of transactions, the mining assets that form the core of Kuvimba’s holdings were until recently owned by or tied to Kudakwashe Tagwirei, a politically connected businessman and presidential adviser who was sanctioned for corruption by the U.S. last year.

By Felix Njini and Antony Sguazzin, Bloomberg, 11 May 2021

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