LATE Zimbabwe former president Robert Mugabe hastily disbursed US$12 million to the military in one day in November 2017 before soldiers dramatically turned guns against him during the same month to end his near-four-decade rule, fresh details have emerged.
On November 6, 2017, Ignatius Chombo, the then Finance minister issued Treasury Bills (TBs) totalling US$12 million in three batches to the military.
Chombo was among a coterie of top officials within Zanu PF, who had coalesced around Mugabe and his wife Grace as factional wars gripping the party climaxed to unprecedented levels.
On that eventful day, Mugabe also expelled his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa from government and Zanu PF for plotting to unseat him, among other charges. At that time, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga was commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF).
In a forthcoming report by The Sentry exclusively availed to the Zimbabwe Independent ahead of its release, Mugabe’s benevolent gesture to the military could have been meant to cajole securocrats to back his decision to fire Mnangagwa.
The report is titled: Legal Tender? The role of Sakunda and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in Command Agriculture.
However, over the days that followed the military rolled tanks in the capital and occupied key state institutions in a putsch that culminated in Mugabe’s downfall and Mnangagwa’s ascendancy.
As the coup unfolded, Chombo was also detained by the military, and reportedly tortured. On November 21, Mugabe, then under house arrest at his “Blue Roof” mansion tendered his resignation.
Mnangagwa returned home on November 24, 2017 from exile in South Africa to assume the reins.
At the heart of The Sentry’s report, documents show that Chombo approved the issuance of Treasury Bills (TBs) amounting to US$12 million to purchase ammunition at US$2 million, US$5 million for rations, US$2 million for aircraft spares and US$3 million for armoured vehicles.
The Sentry hazards that Mugabe’s power play move was also meant to appease the disenchanted command element, which a few days later toppled him, clearing the way for Mnangagwa’s rise to power.
It reads: “The second set of four Treasury Bill issuance notes were issued on November 6, 2017 — the same day that Mnangagwa was fired.
They authorised a total of US$12 million, divided between rations (US$5 million), ammunition (US$2 million), aircraft spares (US$2 million) and armoured vehicles (US$2 million).
“Given the timing, another possibility is that the payments were part of some internal political manoeuvring to shore up support in the military for Mugabe’s decision to sack Mnangagwa.”
Two days before Mugabe jettisoned Mnangagwa and went on to splash US$12 million for the military, the late strong man had on November 4, 2017 fired salvos at his deputy, warning him that: “Did I fail in making Mnangagwa as my deputy? If I failed, I will drop him, even tomorrow.”
“One plausible scenario is that a final decision to sack Mnangagwa was made sometime between November 4 and November 6, and an instruction to issue those Treasury Bills for some political purpose was carried out on November 6, 2017,” the report reads.
As revealed by The Sentry’s investigation, the US$12 million Treasury Bills were to be “issued to the RBZ portfolio and RTGS cash paid to an FBC bank account for CISM Fund, account number 6115088290120.”
At the time the report was compiled, The Sentry had not ascertained the exact entity that controls the CISM Fund.
“It is not clear what entity controls the CISM Fund.
It is possible that it is the account for the ZDF’s membership to the International Military Sports Council.”
An email sent to Chombo by the Sentry seen by this publication seeking, among other objectives, to understand the corporate identity of the CISM Fund and whether the US$12 million availed to the military “was an example of politicised (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) RBZ/Ministry of Finance spending”, drew blanks.
The email, which was sent on January 17, 2022, also questioned whether the US$12 million funding was meant to drum up support for the G40 faction fronted by Mugabe and his wife.
Questions posed to Chombo by the Independent to understand the same were not answered at the time of going to print.
Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Teddy Ndhlovu also did not respond to questions sent to him.
As shown by The Sentry’s investigation, prior to issuing the US$12 million to the military, Chombo had issued US$7,5 million in Treasury Bills for the procurement of 226 vehicles for traditional chiefs on October 25, 2017.
“It was reportedly requested by (then) Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and approved by (then) Finance minister Ignatius Chombo — both prominent members of the so-called G40 faction opposed to Mnangagwa — to purchase Isuzu twin-cab vehicles for 226 traditional chiefs,” the report reads.
Mugabe handed the vehicles to the chiefs on 28 October 2017.
On October 28, 2017, Mugabe handed over the vehicles to the traditional chiefs as he manoeuvred to regain control of the party that was riven by internecine fighting.