By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
27 May 2014
The planned takeover of the ZANU PF linked Sakunda fuel group, by a controversial Dutch multinational oil trader called Trafigura, has been slammed as an “exploitative deal” that entrenches ZANU PF’s grip on power.
The takeover of Sakunda is said to be part of Trafigura’s aims at “consolidating its grip on the fuel supply and distribution in Zimbabwe,” and to cement its relationship with Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF. According to a report by Africa Confidential the deal has been done through Trafigura’s South African Subsidiary, Puma Energy Africa Holdings.
Senior ZANU PF and CIO officials have been linked to Sakunda for years, and the company has long been accused of supporting the party’s political and financial aims. For example in 2012, it was Sakunda that facilitated an estimated $40 million maize import deal with Zambia, after President Micahel Sata pledged to helped Mugabe’s re-election campaign.
More recently, in December 2013 Sakunda secured a $120 million loan from a French bank, which was guaranteed by Trafigura. It is likely this loan, which was given to the ZANU PF government, helped Trafigura in its plans to acquire Sakunda, despite already claiming a 60% stake in the local Redan fuel retailer last year.
With Sakunda and Redan under its belt, Trafigura now controls over 125 Zimbabwe fuel outlets, and also has exclusive access to the government owned Fekura oil pipeline that runs from Beira to Harare.
Economic analyst Vince Musewe told SW Radio Africa that the deal does nothing for the empowerment of Zimbabweans, and goes against ZANU PF’s own indigenisation plans.
“It is unacceptable that an entity like this comes in and buys out the market. The laws also states that in the retail sector, only locals can participate. This is the fuel retail sector, so there is much more to this than a straight deal,” Musewe said.
Also implicated in the Trafigura deal is the Brainworks Capital Management firm, which made news headlines last year after company founder George Manyere was paid $40 million dollars to prepare the Zimplats indigenisation agreement.
Brainworks, said to be investing in Zimbabwe’s fuel sector alongside Trafigura’s Puma subsidiary, facilitated the recent sale of Trafigura’s BancABC stake to the former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond.
Diamond meanwhile recently said he would secure a $207 million European bond for Mugabe’s government.
Musewe said these loans and related deals are all about securing ZANU PF’s grip on power, in exchange for Zimbabwe’s assets. He said this was “exploitative” and such deals were undermining Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.
“This is the same beast that has done all the corrupt deals in Zimbabwe since the 80’s and it is the international community that is assisting the further entrenchment of ZANU PF. Despite the rhetoric that they (ZANU PF) want to empower Zimbabwe, the economic space remains limited to ZANU PF cronies and this kind of deal demonstrates that,” Musewe said.
Trafigura meanwhile has had its own share of controversy and in 2006 was directly implicated in a health crisis in Côte d’Ivoire after a Trafigura chartered ship offloaded toxic waste at an Ivorian port. The gas caused by the release of these chemicals is blamed by the UN and the government of Côte d’Ivoire for the deaths of 17 and the injury of over 30,000 Ivorians.