Controversial Zim presidential adviser and businessman splashes cash on country’s biggest soccer teams

15 September 2021 - 08:00 By Sharon Mazingaizo
A controversial adviser to Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa has thrown big money at two of the country's top football clubs.
A controversial adviser to Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa has thrown big money at two of the country's top football clubs.
Image: 123RF/somkku9kanokwan

Controversial Zimbabwean businessman and presidential adviser Kudakwashe Tagwirei has thrown cash behind the country’s two biggest football clubs.

The teams, Dynamos and Highlanders, which have combined support bases in the country of 10-million people, have received sponsorship from Sakunda Holdings, a company owned by Tagwirei.

Each club will get US$1m (about R14.3m) every year for three years for a total sponsorship of US$3m (about R43m) from Sakunda Holdings. It is the biggest financial sponsorship each club has received.

Harare-based Dynamos is the most successful football club in the country, while Bulawayo-based Highlanders is the oldest club. 

However, Sakunda Holdings’ sponsorship has been marred by controversy, with questions over why the clubs are taking money linked to a tycoon who has been sanctioned by the US and UK.

Tagwirei, an adviser to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, was sanctioned by the US last year on allegations about his “opaque business dealings and his ongoing relationship with Mnangagwa to grow his business empire dramatically and rake in millions of US dollars. Tagwirei and other Zimbabwean elites have derailed economic development and harmed the Zimbabwean people through corruption”.

The UK imposed sanctions on Tagwirei “for profiting from misappropriation of property when his company, Sakunda Holdings, redeemed government of Zimbabwe Treasury bills at up to ten times their official value. His actions accelerated the deflation of Zimbabwe’s currency, increasing the price of essentials such as food for Zimbabwean citizens”.

The two football clubs have been experiencing serious financial challenges and inactivity because of coronavirus lockdowns. The clubs failed to pay players and coaches after the withdrawal of main sponsors.

The controversial sponsorship means the clubs cannot enter into sponsorship deals with any other entity for the duration of their relationship with Sakunda Holdings. The sponsorships have ignited debate on social media.

Zimbabwean journalist and activist Hopewell Chin’ono tweeted: “Highlanders Football Club and Dynamos will be sponsored by Sakunda Holdings, which is owned by crooked businessman Kuda Tagwirei. Poverty has cornered these great teams into submission. That is the price you pay for corrupt rule.”

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