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Mystery of Sanctioned Tycoon's Assets in Zimbabwe Revival Plan

The mining assets core to the vision were linked to Kudakwashe Tagwirei, a politically connected businessman who was called ‘notoriously corrupt’ by the U.S. 

Workers survey the Darwendale platinum mine near Harare, Zimbabwe, on Sept. 16, 2020.

Workers survey the Darwendale platinum mine near Harare, Zimbabwe, on Sept. 16, 2020.

Photographer: Godfrey Marawanyika/Bloomberg

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.