Zimbabwe’s State Spy Agency CIO’s Business Empire Revealed

"Brown House" - CIO Head Office in Harare
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HARARE – Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) may be financing itself through a secret network of business ventures, according to an investigative and policy organization, The Sentry.

According to publicly available information, the CIO is believed to control Terrestrial Holdings, a conglomerate with interests spanning hemp, solar energy, coal mining, tourism, and golf.

The CIO, responsible for both domestic and international intelligence, has a controversial history marked by accusations of partisan and violent activities. During the 2023 elections, a senior CIO official allegedly helped create a ruling party affiliate that has been accused of intimidating rural voters.

Although the majority of the CIO’s funding is officially allocated through the national budget, the agency also has a dedicated investment branch that engages in private business activities to secure additional, off-budget funding.

Previous CIO ventures have included mushroom farming, exporting baby elephants, and diamond mining. Recently, companies linked to the CIO, namely Terrestrial Mining and Whitelime Mining, received coal mining concessions covering 50,000 hectares near Lake Kariba in western Zimbabwe. This area is in proximity to significant coal-fired power plants, both existing and proposed. However, a spokesperson for Terrestrial Holdings and Terrestrial Mining has denied any CIO ownership or control.

The existence of an independent CIO business network is concerning due to the agency’s alleged involvement in election-related intimidation. Ensuring civilian control and full financial transparency is critical to prevent potential abuses by security forces that have independent revenue streams.

CIO-Linked Companies in Zimbabwe

Name Company Number/Year Standing
Terrestrial Holdings Unknown, records missing Active
Terrestrial Mining 14849/2020 Active
Whitelime Mining 28910/2008 Active
Chimanimani Logistics Unknown, records missing Active
Chapel Mining 5730/2010 Possibly dormant or defunct
Sino Zim Development 1788/2010 Possibly dormant or defunct
Sino Zim Cotton Holdings 1708/2010 Possibly dormant or defunct
Sino Zim Diamonds 8915/2007 Possibly dormant or defunct
Terrestrial Safaris 5929/2011 Possibly dormant or defunct
Rudgold Investments 4960/2012 Possibly dormant or defunct
Dashville Enterprises 8384/2012 Possibly dormant or defunct
Todware Investments 12801/2005 Possibly dormant or defunct


For the Government of Zimbabwe:

  1. Dissolve CIO Businesses: The government should dismantle the CIO’s business ventures and its investment branch, ensuring that the agency relies solely on budget allocations approved by Parliament. This would enhance oversight and accountability, balancing security needs with other civilian funding requirements.
  2. Modernize Corporate Registry: Introduce an online, public registry for corporate directors and beneficial owners to replace the current paper-based system, which often lacks up-to-date information. Notably, records for Terrestrial Holdings and Chimanimani Logistics are missing, and Whitelime Mining’s records are outdated.

For Banks and Commercial Counterparties:

  1. Enhanced Due Diligence: Banks and companies engaged with Terrestrial Holdings and related entities should perform thorough due diligence to uncover and mitigate risks linked to the CIO, whose members are implicated in human rights abuses and actions undermining democracy.
  2. Ongoing Due Diligence in Mining: Firms operating in Zimbabwe’s coal mining sector should continuously conduct due diligence in line with the OECD’s guidelines for responsible mineral supply chains from conflict-affected areas, focusing on the CIO’s involvement and associated risks.