HARARE – Commodities trader Trafigura will take control of its Zimbabwe business after buying out local partner Sakunda Holdings, which is owned by a businessman close to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
Trafigura will increase its stake in Trafigura Zimbabwe to 100 percent, from 49 percent. The rest was owned by businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei’s unlisted Sakunda, which also operated Trafigura’s Puma Energy fuel outlets.
Trafigura’s move comes just before the United States government announces an extension of targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe, which is expected to see the addition of new names of the regime’s enablers, including Tagwirei.
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“It’s not hard to see what’s happened,” said Zimbabwean legal expert Alex Magaisa, a lecturer at Kent University in the United Kingdom. “Trafigura felt the heat when Sakunda was named as recipient of corrupt money under Command Agriculture. This put Sakunda at risk of targeted sanctions. Trafigura fears the clutch of a drowning man.”
The global commodities trader said in a statement late on Tuesday that it had signed an agreement with Sakunda in December to take full control of the Zimbabwean business after buying Sakunda’s shares.
Trafigura did not say how much it had paid for the stake but added that the deal was awaiting final regulatory approval.
“This will bring improved clarity on Trafigura’s activities in the country, an opportunity for more robust financing of Trafigura Zimbabwe and (it) aims to help improve the security of supply of fuel to Zimbabwe,” Trafigura said.
Zimbabwe is gripped by acute shortages of fuel and foreign currency as the economy grapples with its worst crisis in a decade.
Tagwirei did not immediately respond to a request for comment while Sakunda’s chief operations officer Mberikwazvo Chitambo could not be reached for comment.
The businessman sits in Mnangagwa’s advisory council while his Sakunda company is a major financier of the government’s Command Agriculture programme, providing fuel, fertilisers and seed for farmers. – Reuters