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US slaps sanctions on leading Zimbabwe businessman

The move against Kudakwashe Tagwirei comes days after Zimbabwe thwarted protests called by a small opposition party over graft and a slumping economy.

FILE: Zimbabwean businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei. Picture: AFP

WASHINGTON - The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on one of Zimbabwe's top businessmen and political operators, accusing him of abetting corruption that plagues the nation.

The move against Kudakwashe Tagwirei comes days after Zimbabwe thwarted protests called by a small opposition party over graft and a slumping economy.

Calling Tagwirei "notoriously corrupt," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States wants "a stable and democratic Zimbabwe."

"Our actions today demonstrate to the government and people of Zimbabwe that the United States does not tolerate public corruption and will promote accountability for perpetrators of public corruption," he said.

Tagwirei's company, Sakunda Holdings, has managed a farm subsidy for the government and failed to account for $3 billion, according to a parliamentary audit.

His fortunes have kept rising since President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over in 2017 following the ouster of longtime ruler Robert Mugabe.

Under the sanctions, Washington will freeze any assets Tagwirei has in the United States and bar any US transactions with him.

Pompeo said that the United States was issuing the sanctions Wednesday to commemorate the two-year anniversary of soldiers' suppression of protests over elections seen as fraudulent. At least six people died.

Activists say that Mnangagwa has launched a new, broad crackdown on dissent, arresting dozens of people to thwart protests.

A ruling party leader last month described the US ambassador as a "thug" for voicing support for free expression, leading Washington to summon Zimbabwe's ambassador to protest.

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