A few years ago, the United Nations published a list of Zimbabwean politicians and businessmen that it accused of plundering the riches of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
On the list were Robert Mugabe’s powerful cronies who then stood the possibility of being tried for their activities of plunder in the DRC.
When the assassinated DRC president Laurent Kabila was about to be driven out of office by rebels, he appealed to Robert Mugabe for assistance.
Mugabe sent his army into the DRC and effectively saved Kabila from being overrun. In appreciation, Zimbabwe was granted access to mines, forestry, land and other highly productive business concessions. They were granted licenses to run banks, supermarkets and all sorts of businesses.
But the plunder was noted and a United Nations panel produced a report detailing how the seven countries involved in the war in the DRC plundered that country’s natural resources.
“Criminal groups linked to the armies of Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe and the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have benefited from the micro conflicts,” said the report. “Those groups will not disband voluntarily even as the foreign military forces continue their withdrawals. They have built up a self-financing war economy centered on mineral exploitation.”
The report went on to say that the army withdrawals were unlikely to alter the determination of Rwanda and Zimbabwe, and Ugandan individuals, “to exercise economic control over portions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo”.
“The departure of their forces will do little to reduce economic control, or the means of achieving it, since the use of national armies is only one among many means for exercising it.”
Towards the end of its mandate, the UN panel received a copy of a memorandum dated August 2002 from the Zimbabwe Defence Minister, Sydney Sekeramayi, proposing that “a joint Zimbabwe-Democratic Republic of the Congo company be set up in Mauritius to disguise the continuing economic interests of the Zimbabwe Defence Force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”.
The UN named Emerson Munangagwa as the leader of a group of Zimbabwean elites who ran businesses, mostly diamond trading, in the DRC. Other Zimbabweans named were General Zvinavashe (now retired), Air Vice Marshal Perence Shiri, General Busi Moyo and a horde of other senior Zimbabwean army personnel.
And, once again, last week, Africa Confidential reported that as talks between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change were uninspiringly dragging along in South Africa, members of Mugabe’s elite were busy hiding millions of US dollars in offshore accounts.
”Leading members of President Mugabe’s regime and their business allies are transferring tens of millions of US dollars out of Zimbabwe to safe havens to avoid the threat of tightening sanctions and the possibility of financial scrutiny by a power-sharing government,” reported Africa Confidential. “Almost all of these transactions are illegal under Zimbabwe’s foreign exchange laws and Africa Confidential has seen bank documents that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Gideon Gono, has violated the monetary rules he claims to enforce.”
The paper went on to say that most of the politicians and businesses taking out the money use established Western banks and insurance companies to make the transfers.
“The money is drained out of Zimbabwe to either Britain or South Africa with minimal institutional scrutiny, after which it is transferred to even safer, offshore jurisdictions or to financial centers in East Asia.
The paper says, within the region, the most farvoured destinations are Namibia and South Africa, “where the ruling elite have invested heavily in property, usually registered in the names of their spouses or children.
“As opinion on the legitimacy of Mugabe’s regime changes in the SADC, we hear that senior members of the ruling ZANU-PF now prefer to move their money to financial institutions in Malaysia and China through large trading companies or multinational banks.”
And there to receive and guide the money into safe quarters is reported to be Zimbabwean banker and Mugabe’s business ally, Enoch Kamushinda, “who now lives in Malaysia and who recently sold 60% of his shareholding in Metropolitan Bank to the wholly respectable Nairobi-based Loita Capital Partner International, allowing him to open his financial investment firm in Kuala Lumpur – where Mugabe holidayed earlier this year”.
Additional reporting: The Insider, Africa Confidential