Former Deputy Finance Minister Convicted in Fuel Smuggling Case
In a surprising move that could indicate shifting political winds, Terrence Mukupe, a one-time ally of former President Robert Mugabe, has been convicted for his role in a massive fuel smuggling operation in 2017.
Mukupe, who briefly served as Deputy Finance Minister after Mugabe’s ouster, was taken into custody along with three others pending sentencing on Thursday after the National Prosecuting Authority proved their involvement in illegally importing over 138,000 liters of diesel without paying customs duties.
Court documents revealed alarming new details about the sophisticated smuggling scheme. On January 27th, 2017, Mukupe and his co-conspirators Sam Kapisoriso, Joseph Taderera, and Leonard Mudzuto imported the diesel using forged documentation claiming it was destined for the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, they had no intention of exporting the fuel across the border. Instead, they drained the diesel tanks at the border and replaced the valuable cargo with water, hoping to avoid scrutiny from authorities.
Their plot was uncovered just three days later when officials from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority intercepted the tankers using an electronic tracking system as they suspiciously detoured through Chirundu Border Post. Upon inspection, water was discovered instead of diesel, blowing the lid off the operation. The State argued Mukupe and his accomplices had intended to resell the smuggled diesel on the black market in Zimbabwe, depriving the government of an estimated US$55,000 in customs duties.
While corruption prosecutions have been rare against members of the ruling ZANU-PF party, Mukupe’s conviction may suggest attitudes are shifting under President Mnangagwa.
As sentencing looms, the high-profile case delivers a strong message that even well-connected political elites will be held accountable for flouting the law. It remains to be seen if this prosecution is the beginning of a broader crackdown, or an isolated incident targeting a one-time opponent. But for now, the conviction of the former deputy minister has sent shockwaves through Harare’s political establishment.