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US Treasury Announces New Sanctions on Ally of Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa

FILE - Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses mourners at the burial of Zimbabwean minister Perence Shiri, who died of Covid-19, during his burial in Harare, July, 31, 2020.

The U.S. Treasury has imposed financial sanctions on an alleged Zimbabwean government ally who it says used corruption to rake in millions of U.S. dollars.

Kudakwashe Regimond Tagwirei and his company, Sakunda Holdings, were targeted Wednesday by the Treasury Department.

“Tagwirei and other Zimbabwean elites have derailed economic development and harmed the Zimbabwean people through corruption,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Justin G. Muzinich in a press release.

The release said Tagwirei used opaque business dealings and relationships with top officials, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa, to win state contracts and receive favored access to hard currency, which has been in short supply for years in Zimbabwe.

The department tied the sanctions to the second anniversary of a violent crackdown against protesters in Zimbabwe that left at least six people dead.

A successful businessman, Tagwirei has long been connected with Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party and top officials, such as President Mnangagwa and First Vice President Constantino Chiwenga. Both individuals have been subject to previous sanctions and retain spots on the U.S. Treasury’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons, a compilation of individuals who have been targeted by various sanctions programs.

According to his profile on Sakunda Holdings’ website, Tagwirei sits on the National Procurement Board for Zimbabwe’s oil supply industry, in addition to serving as the company’s chief executive officer.

A report commissioned by the Zimbabwean government in 2019 found that Tagwirei and his associates could not account for at least $3 billion dispensed to the Command Agriculture program, a state farm subsidy financed by Sakunda Holdings and supported by Mnangagwa, the Treasury Department says.

Zimbabwe has been thrust into turmoil in recent weeks, as citizens emboldened by the #blacklivesmatter movement take to the streets to protest human rights abuses and a lack of government assistance as the economy falters during the coronavirus pandemic.

Several activists, authors and civilians have been arrested. The government contends the protests are being orchestrated by foreign governments and opposition leaders in an attempt to destabilize the nation.

Under the new sanctions, all property and interests of Tagwirei and Sakunda Holdings that are in the U.S. or under the control of U.S. nationals must be blocked and reported to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.