The Sentry was founded in 2016 by John Prendergast, a former US Director of African Affairs in the National Security Council and advisor to Susan Rice at the Department of State. As many international relations experts are aware, Susan Rice played a significant role in instigating the Second Congo War in 1998 and advocated for sanctions against Zimbabwe for its involvement in that same conflict, after the Congolese government requested assistance from the SADC Organ in September 1998.

John Prendergast, who was also Susan Rice’s side-kick, played an instrumental role in igniting fires for the U.S. government in Burundi, Eritrea, and Sudanβ€”all countries that later faced U.S. sanctions. His involvement contributed to the escalation of tensions and conflicts in these nations, ultimately leading to U.S. intervention and sanctions.

When he retired, he founded #TheSentry, an organization specializing in producing reports that allege corruption in Africa. These reports are often used by the U.S. government to justify imposing sanctions on implicated individuals and nations.

For instance, in 2021, The Sentry wrote a report titled β€œLegal Tender” in which they alleged that Sakunda embezzled $3 billion from Command Agriculture. However, a Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) inquiry led by Tendai Biti revealed that Sakunda did not receive $3 billion. Instead, during a 2017 drought when Zimbabwe was financially strained, Kuda Tagwirei recognized that many Zimbabwean companies held significant foreign currency reserves, which could be leveraged to fund a national agriculture program to mitigate the drought by importing inputs and equipment for government to support farmers at a time when the government had no funds of its own.

Though not all Zimbabwean companies participated in the program, major entities like FSG (Fertilizer Seed and Grain) owned by Steve Morland, ZFC, Seedco, Windmill, Sable Chemicals, Cottco, and Pedstock collectively contributed over $530 million. This funding was repaid using government treasury bills totaling just over $600 million, facts absent from The Sentry report.

According to the PAC report, Sakunda also invested its own reserves and received treasury bills worth $614,693,462, at a return of less than 5% (as per the PAC report’s third column) for their participation in the 2017 and 2018 agriculture seasons, under the program.

The total amount disbursed to all companies involved in the program over two years, was slightly over $1.2 billion, not the $3 billion that The Sentry claimed Sakunda alone received.

What The Sentry report also fails to mention was that, during the same period (2017-2018), Zimbabwe managed to mitigate the drought and increased maize output to over 2.2 million tons, meeting the country’s maize requirements for the first time since 2001 when western sanctions were imposed.

The maize output numbers clearly indicate that Command Agriculture was successful in its inaugural year, helping Zimbabwe progress towards maize and wheat self-sufficiency. This success is evident in the record-breaking wheat production of 468,000 tons [six years later] in 2023, surpassing the annual requirement of 360,000 tons. These impressive wheat numbers make Zimbabwe one of only two countries (Ethiopia and Zimbabwe) in Africa that have achieved wheat self-sufficiency. Even South Africa, which has not achieved wheat self-sufficiency since 1989, is not in this elite club.

Following the release of the PAC report in 2022, Sakunda sent it to The Sentry along with rebuttals to the false claims made in their 2019 report. However, despite presenting these facts, The Sentry has not retracted its false allegations. In fact, the US government used these allegations to impose executive order sanctions on Sakunda and Kuda Tagwirei. Subsequently, these sanctions were extended to include his wife, Obey Chimuka, and the President under The Global Magnitsky Sanctions.

What is even more interesting is none of the white companies that participated in command agriculture and received over $600 million in treasury bills were ever implicated by The Sentry Legal Tender report, and none have been sanctioned by the U.S. government.

It’s evident that The Sentry’s publication on Command Agriculture, was intended to discredit the program, black business people and to undermine Kuda Tagwirei’s efforts -as its architect- toward mitigating climate change and helping Zimbabwe to achieve food self-sufficiency, as he has done with giving Zimbabwe fuel autarky.

It also appears that The Sentry is operating as a proxy of the US government, led by a sleeper of the National Security Council and State Department, who previously destabilized a number of African countries.

It’s obvious now that John Prendergast is continuing his work of destabilizing Africa by writing articles that stigmatize black business leaders and government officials as corrupt, while deliberately ignoring white businesspeople like Zinona Koudounaris of Innscor β€”who was implicated in the Panama Papers for money laundering, and who is selling illegal GMOsβ€” to sow dissent and ignite conflagrations among citizens, as he did in Sudan and Congo. Given this context, what reason do we have to believe that the new report on the Mutapa Fund is any different from the previous disinformation?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not yet discrediting this report, neither am I saying that corruption doesn’t exist in this government, but I am challenging us to interrogate it first before we take it at face value as we did with the report on Command Agriculture, only to be proven wrong.

Nevertheless, having said that, I have absolutely no sympathy for those implicated in this report, because I have consistently urged them and the government to invest resources into combating propaganda through proactive communication, storytelling and transparency. But they have not heeded the advice.

It’s so clear that the U.S. is angling to designate the Mutapa Fund under Magnitsky sanctions for corruption, using this report. However, the stakeholders of Mutapa are playing straight into the hands of the Americans by remaining secretive and failing to risk-manage through transparency measures such as websites, public engagements, parliamentary workshops, road-shows, media publicity, editorials, reports, and documentaries that demystify how our national endowment is being managed.

This lack of transparency by our leaders breeds skepticism and contempt in the public, empowering the Americans to weaponize their propaganda on how black people are corrupt, to fuel discontent and civil disobedience. Yet, simply telling the story of this very institution would kill this disinformation agenda, dead in its tracks.

It’s like our leaders enjoy being decampaigned, because this report is a self-inflicted wound caused by our leaders failing to simply bring their citizens into their confidence about their national sovereign fund.

I urge our leaders be proactive and to implement a Mutapa Fund audit and education campaign, as soon as possible, before our state-owned enterprises (which the West covets) and endowments, known as the Mutapa Fund, are decimated by illegal sanctions due to unnecessary secrecy.

Written by Rutendo Matinyarare, Chairman of ZASM.

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