UK sanctions Kuda Tagwirei over Command Agric payments

Tagwirei, left, with President Emmerson Mnangagwa: UK, USA sanctions over Command Agric payments

Britain has imposed sanctions on businessman Kuda Tagwirei, saying the payments his company Sakunda received for Command Agriculture had undermined Zimbabwe’s economy.

The United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) accuses Tagwirei of “profiting from misappropriation of property” when Sakunda allegedly redeemed Treasury Bills (TBs) at “up to ten times their official value”.

Said the FCO: “His actions accelerated the deflation of Zimbabwe’s currency, increasing the price of essentials, such as food, for Zimbabwean citizens.”

Under the measures, any assets that Tagwirei holds in the UK will be frozen.  He will not be able to move money through UK banks and he is banned from travelling there.

In February, the UK imposed its first sanctions against Zimbabwe since leaving the European Union, imposing a ban on four officials for what it calls “egregious human rights violations”. The UK had already announced in April 2019 that it had drafted regulations to keep sanctions against Zimbabwe in place when Britain eventually left the EU.

Sanctions and TBs

The UK’s latest move on Tagwirei follows similar action taken by the United States on the businessman last year. The US Treasury added him to its own list of sanctioned Zimbabweans, saying he was guilty of “providing support to the leadership of the Government of Zimbabwe” and that he was one of the “elites (that) have derailed economic development and harmed the Zimbabwean people through corruption.”

The US also cited Sakunda’s TBs in imposing sanctions on Tagwirei.

According to the US, Sakunda had received the equivalent of US$3 billion in Treasury Bills for supplying inputs under the Command Agriculture program.

But, appearing before Parliament in March last year, Sakunda CEO Mberikwazvo Chitambo showed documents that he said proved that his company had in fact received around US$1 billion between June 2016 and May 2019 for Command Agriculture.

The cited US$3 billion was the overall total that had been paid out for farm programmes, including the presidential input scheme. Last November, Treasury Secretary George Guvamatanga, also said the total paid out for Command Agriculture since its inception in 2016 was US$1 billion.

However, in 2019, IMF reportedly warned Zimbabwean authorities that a payment of US$366 million worth of TBs to Sakunda had undermined the Zimbabwe dollar, which had just been reintroduced. Maturity of the bills, the IMF team was said to have noted privately to Zimbabwe Treasury officials, had driven up money supply by as much as 80% in 2019.

Over recent weeks, Tagwirei has been a lightning rod for accusations of top-level corruption and State capture after leaked emails from a former associate revealed his role in Kuvimba, a mining company that has been on an acquisition spree of private and public mining firms.

The company insists Tagwirei is not a shareholder. However, sanctions by the US and the UK on Tagwirei may see potential Kuvimba partners staying clear of the company’s plans to raise US$1 billion to fund exploration, acquisitions and mining development.