Succession: Chiwenga, Tagwirei close ranks

Zanu PF sources revealed that Tagwirei, who has been accused of using his proximity to Mnangagwa to amass wealth through government contracts, reached out to Chiwenga through emissaries led by a top army general.

Business tycoon Kuda Tagwirei, a key figure behind the scenes in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s dramatic rise to power six years ago, is said to have mended fences with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga in a move seen as indicative of the changing dynamics in Zanu PF’s succession matrix.

Mnangagwa is serving his last term after taking over in the aftermath of a coup in November 2017 that toppled the late long-time ruler, Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party is in the throes of a deadly but silent succession war.

In public, Mnangagwa has maintained that he will leave office when his term expires in 2028, and according to his spokesperson, George Charamba, who posted on X with the handle dhonzamusoro007, the President also asserted that Zanu PF will choose his successor when the time is appropriate.

Mnangagwa’s backers, notably Midlands provincial minister, Owen Ncube, have been trying to rouse support for an "ED2030" campaign which suggests that he would still be running the country beyond his second term.

His statement is unlikely to douse the succession debate in the ruling party, akin to his predecessor’s last days in power.

Chiwenga is seen in some quarters as the 81 year-old ruler’s natural successor, but some of the Zanu PF leader’s loyalists want him to hang on to power.

The behind-the-scenes manoeuvring over Mnangagwa’s succession is said to have seen some powerful businesspeople and politicians making overtures to Chiwenga to curry favour in the event of power changing hands in 2028.

Zanu PF sources revealed that Tagwirei, who has been accused of using his proximity to Mnangagwa to amass wealth through government contracts, reached out to Chiwenga through emissaries led by a top army general.

The two are said to have fallen out soon after the coup due to business deals that went sour and saw Tagwirei gravitating towards Mnangagwa.

Sources said the Sakunda founder, who was a ubiquitous figure and close to the president during the early days of his presidency, feels sidelined by the emergence of rivals such as Wicknell Chivayo.

He is said to have used a top army general (name supplied) to reach out to Chiwenga and the two have since ironed out their differences.

“For the past months, the army general, who is also close to Mnangagwa, has been facilitating meetings between Tagwirei and Chiwenga which led to a truce between the two,” the source said.

“Before Chivayo, many, if not all government projects were being awarded to Tagwirei. He was the kingmaker, who would determine who should get which government posts but he is now being side-lined. This has forced him to rethink his relationship with ED.”

Mnangagwa appointed Tagwirei to the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) after controversially winning the 2018 elections. At the time he said the PAC would advise him in formulating economic policies.

The PAC has since become redundant as its members were sharply divided over the country’s political and economic trajectory under Mnangagwa.

Tagwirei is one of Mnangagwa’s associates that were sanctioned by the United States and the United Kingdom for their alleged links to corruption networks.

At one time he was in control of Kuvimba Mining House, a monolithic mining conglomerate that was built through the consolidation of state-owned mining firms, as he tightened his grip on Zimbabwe’s economy.

He has also spread his footprint into agriculture, banking and finance.

Zanu PF sources said his new found relationship with Chiwenga was an indication that he wanted to continue benefiting from government business and also protecting his vast interests.

“He has been cosying up to Chiwenga of late although for years they were not the best of buddies,” said the source. “Chiwenga was bitter with the way his investment at a chrome mine (African Chrome Fields) was managed by Tagwirei.

“He lost his shares in a joint venture with Zunaid Moti controversially and Tagwirei was involved. But now they are talking with the help of the army general. They feel Chivayo is misleading the President.”

According to a report released in April last year by The Sentry, a United States-based investigative group, Moti, allegedly paid US$3 million to firms linked to Mnanagwga and Chiwenga following a US$120 million deal signed in November 2017, at the height of the coup, that saw Tagwirei acquire 30% of ACF.

According to The Sentry report, ACF became a “money-moving operation in which Moti’s companies paid US$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 US$1 million to Mnangagwa’s farm and US$2 million to a company controlled by (a Chiwenga associate) and someone reported to be Chiwenga’s niece.”

At the time, the Moti Group denied peddling influence over Zimbabwe’s top leadership.

The source said Tagwirei’s visits to State House had become less frequent because he is not part of those pushing Mnangagwa to rule beyond his constitutionally guaranteed two terms that end in 2028.

“Tagwirei does not believe in the ED 2030 mantra. He thinks Mnangagwa should serve his constitutional terms and leave,” the source added.

Neither Chiwenga nor Tagwirei responded to questions that were sent a fortnight ago.

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