GOVERNMENT’S Command Agriculture benefactor Kudakwashe Tagwirei reportedly splashed millions of scarce United States dollars on luxury vehicles for President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputies, Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi, as well as their spouses and several other top government officials, NewsDay has learned.
Tagwirei who was referred to as Queen Bee by then Finance Ministry communications chairman Acie Lumumba when he exposed his deals, reportedly bought the top-of-the-range Lexus vehicles for Mnangagwa, First Lady Auxillia, Chiwenga and his wife, Marry, as well as Mohadi, while several government officials received V8 Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles ahead of the disputed July 30 elections won by Zanu PF.
It is understood that the vehicles were brought into the country under the government’s ambitious Command Agriculture scheme and were reportedly exempted from paying import duty.
Tagwirei, the owner of Sakunda Petroleum, which is in a 50-50 partnership with Trafigura, a Singaporean company with vast interests in the fuel industry across the globe, allegedly seized the opportunity to also import three Lexus vehicles for himself, while two of his business allies also capitalised on the avenue.
The businessman did not comment despite several follow-ups and text messages.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba refused to comment, saying it was not a government issue.
“It is not a government issue. I am not the spokesperson of Command Agriculture. Talk to (Agriculture) minister Perrance Shiri,” he said.
Shiri confirmed that his ministry took delivery of the top-of-the-range cars, saying these were imported for the Command Agriculture programme.
He, however, denied reports that some of the vehicles found their way to the Presidium.
“The vehicles are for Command Agriculture. I have the register of all the vehicles under the Command Agriculture scheme. You can come to my office and I will show you,” Shiri, who is also reportedly a beneficiary of the vehicles, said.
“About those you say were given to the President and others, I don’t know. It’s not true.”
However, well-placed sources in government revealed that Shiri himself benefited, as he also received an upmarket Land Cruiser.
Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, was also listed as a beneficiary alongside one of his deputies, Justin Mupamhanga, who was reportedly handed a Land Cruiser vehicle, while his wife reportedly got a Mercedes-Benz ML sport-utility vehicle.
Mupamanga is also the chairman of the Integrated Command Agriculture Taskforce.
An unnamed army Brigadier-General, who represents the military in the Command Agriculture scheme, was also “blessed” with a top-of-the-range vehicle, while several twin-cab trucks were given to some officials in various ministries.
The vehicles, reportedly imported from South Africa, were handed to the beneficiaries some few days before the death of Tagwirei’s father that brought government and Parliament business at a virtual standstill after the Presidium and government ministers rushed to attend his burial, showing the businessman’s influence in the top echelons of power.
Mnangagwa reportedly first used his white Lexus vehicle at the funeral of Chiwenga’s sister two weeks before the death of Tagwirei’s father.
The President, Chiwenga and Mohadi all have government service vehicles and it was not clear what positions Auxillia and Marry have in the Command Agriculture scheme to deserve the luxury vehicles.
Command Agriculture is a government programme funded through Treasury Bills, contrary to claims that the Sakunda boss funded the project.
Tagwirei has been cited as the biggest reason why the country’s domestic debt has continued to skyrocket at the expense of the majority hard-pressed taxpayers.
Recently, Tagwirei, possibly the biggest Zanu PF benefactor so far, who has also been awarded many controversial government deals, including the Dema diesel power project, bought over 50 vehicles for Zanu PF officials, with more expected to be delivered to the ruling party anytime soon.
He reportedly financed the ambitious government programme to the tune of over $500 million, which he was paid back through Treasury Bills in an arrangement described by former Finance minister Tendai Biti as a parallel scheme and the beginning of State capture.
A former Zanu PF youth leader, William “Acie Lumumba” Mutumanje, last week set the cat among the pigeons, saying that some businesspeople had captured the country, a claim directed at Tagwirei.