Fidelity Printers and Refiners (FPR) general manager, Fradreck Kunaka, is leaving Zimbabwe’s sole buyer, refiner, and exporter of gold, at the end of this month after six years at the helm, a local publication revealed.
Well-placed sources at FPR, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), this week said his departure after 20 years of service, six of which as general manager of FPR, was part of an internal overhaul at the soon to be restructured company to create two units—gold refining and printing and minting.
The central bank will wholly own the printing and minting business and retain 40% shareholding in the refining entity.
Using a three-year average delivery of gold to Fidelity Printers, the central bank will offer 50% shareholding in FPR to the large-scale gold producers, 3% to major FPR gold buying agents and the balance of 7% to the small-scale producers through their representative bodies.
Kunaka’s replacement was, however, not immediately clear by the time of going to print.
Contacted for comment by Business Times, Kunaka confirmed that he will be leaving his position at the end of this month.
His departure followed a steady build-up of mounting pressure for him to step aside following the government’s decision to unbundle FPR.
“There’s always time for everything in life. My curtain at Fidelity is coming down at the end of the month [March] after a good long relationship with the company,” Kunaka said.
He added: “The unbundling issue at Fidelity is one of the major reasons for me leaving the company as new shareholders come in with their new employees who they think can further their agenda.
“This came at an opportune moment as my tenure as the general manager was coming to an end and I saw it wise to leave the company.
“I did all I could to serve the gold buying company [FPR] but everything has to end like now. We never know, the new management may take the company to even greater heights than we did. We leave them to their business and will be helping from the sidelines and whenever necessary.”
The RBZ is planning to end the gold monopoly by FPR, which has seen it being the country’s only buyer, refiner and exporter of gold for more than 40 years.
The monopoly, however, has been criticised by some who were seeking to invest in Zimbabwe’s gold sector.
RBZ is expecting that the gold producers’ compliance levels in the trading of gold will significantly increase due to the fact that gold dealers will be part of the decision-making process in gold trading.
The privatisation of FPR comes after lobbying from some players in the mining business.
Given the developments, well-placed sources told Business Times that Kunaka was expected to leave his position as it had become untenable.
Other sources told this publication that the tide finally turned following FPR’s failure to pay miners, resulting in them smuggling the yellow metal to alternative markets.
Zimbabwe has been losing at least US$100m worth of gold every month due to smuggling, according to Home Affairs Minister, Kazembe Kazembe.
There have also been unfriendly policies, which have resulted in unsatisfactory deliveries to FPR.
Last year, about 19.1 tonnes of gold was delivered to FPR from a target of 28 tonnes.
Zimbabwe could have missed out on gains it could have harvested from record-high gold prices of US$2, 070 in November 2020.