SOUTH AFRICA-BASED Zimbabwean anti-sanctions campaigner, Rutendo Matinyarare, has lifted the lid on how controversial Kudakwashe Tagwirei took risks to build his business empire from his retrenchment package in the early 2000s.
Matinyarare, chairperson of the Zimbabweans Unite Against US War Sanctions (ZUAUWS), which is lobbying for the removal of sanctions against Zimbabwe, said the growth of Tagwireyi’s vast business empire could also be credited to his wife, Sandra, a former top bank executive.
Sandra and Kuda combined their names to name their company Sakunda.
Tagwirei and his Sakunda company have attracted a lot of attention with critics accusing the businessman of capitalising on his proximity to the Zanu PF elite to build his business empire. Tagwirei has been placed on the US and UK sanctions lists because of his alleged links with the Presidium.
Matinyarare claimed that Tagwirei’s business-life story started in early 2000 after his retrenchment and at a time when the country was facing its worst fuel crisis.
“After Kuda got his retrenchment package, he combined with his wife to create Sakunda which is a neologism of Sandra and Kuda. They then went on to apply for a fuel trading licence and sadly, that year (2002), only 149 fuel licences were issued by the government and Sakunda missed out,” Matinyarare said in a long thread about Tagwirei’s business background.
“Instead of despairing, Sandra and Kuda leased a fuel licence from one of the connected people who had been licensed. In their first six months, they got a contract to supply US$500 000 worth of fuel per month to some entity, but they didn’t have the money.
“They subsequently approached Sandra’s former boss, John Mangudya (then commercial head at a leading bank), and were advised to mortgage their house for the loan. They did just that, and after getting the loan, they began pushing half a million dollars’ worth of fuel every month.”
Mangudya is the current central bank governor.
According to Matinyarare, Sakunda started pushing 20 million litres of fuel per month into the market, becoming the largest fuel supplier by 2012, attracting the attention of the government.
“After some background checks by the intelligence, the government approached Sakunda and offered it a share of the Beira pipeline because the government had no money or capacity to carry the 60 million litres of fuel it was contracted to carry, thus it was losing money in fees for unused pipeline capacity,” he said.
“Sandra and Kuda took a gamble by investing in sending fuel down a pipeline, even though they had dozens of trucks. This drastically reduced their fuel costs and increased their margins exponentially over competitors.
“By innovating, learning, creating global relationships, taking risks, outsmarting the competition, keeping cash-in-hand to integrate (vertically and horizontally) the value chain, being willing to invest their money in projects like the pipeline and reinvesting their profits in the same country for years without splashing out on luxuries; Sandra and Kuda made lots of money and grew wealthy.”
He added: “And now that they have made more money than most, by remaining in Zimbabwe and consolidating the market, they are demonised and called a monopoly for being smart, patriotic and innovative.”
In 2021, Britain imposed sanctions on Tagwirei, saying the payments his company Sakunda received for Command Agriculture had undermined Zimbabwe’s economy. The US Treasury has also added him to its own list of sanctioned Zimbabweans.