Mugabe ready to bend the rules

2015-04-12 15:00

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Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe used his visit this week to tell South African business that his government would remove some of the stumbling blocks to investing in his country.

One of these is uncertainty about Zimbabwe’s indigenisation laws.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told journalists the indigenisation law, first promulgated in 2007, was being amended to allow flexibility for sectors outside mineral resources.

“Each minister for each sector will set out what the thresholds will be,” he said.

President Robert Mugabe said there would be no negotiation about foreign mining businesses ceding a 51% share to black Zimbabwean groups, but they would be happy to negotiate about other foreign businesses.

“If the resources are brought from outside or you want to manufacture gadgets which we didn’t have before, well that’s not covered under the 51%-49% [ownership rule],” he said at a joint press conference with President Jacob Zuma at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday. “That can be negotiated.”

He hinted that politics was still more important than economics when it came to minerals.

“African resources belong to Africans. I don’t believe capital is more important than resources.

“Capital that is aimed at mining is drawing from my country a resource that cannot be replaced tomorrow. You are leaving holes in my country and you want to say the capital is more valuable.

“The gold that I have, the God-given gold that I have, is much more beneficial and important to my country.”

The World Economic Forum has listed Zimbabwe as one of the least competitive economies in Africa, while the International Monetary Fund predicted Zimbabwe’s growth this year would be weak.

Local companies like SABMiller, Old Mutual, Standard Bank, Impala Platinum, Aquarius Platinum, Anglo-American Platinum, Pick n Pay and Nando’s invest in Zimbabwe.

Despite friendly words between Mugabe and Zuma, the relationship between the two is one of necessity rather than friendship.

Mugabe famously had cordial relations with former president Thabo Mbeki, but his relationship with Zuma has been less warm.

Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, told journalists at the end of the visit: “I don’t want to predicate the relationship between the two on interpersonal factors. There’s a way in which social conditions in both countries compel gravitation towards one another, and that’s exactly what’s happening.”

He said the questions that Zimbabwe had been dealing with for a few years, like land reform, were ones South Africa had only begun to grapple with.

Politically, Mugabe also needs support from South Africa ahead of Zimbabwe’s next elections in 2018, when he could, according to the country’s 2013 Constitution, possibly seek another term.

Relations between South Africa’s governing party and that of Zimbabwe are also strong.

Mujuru and other expelled members this week started a breakaway Zanu-PF party.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday paid a courtesy call to Mugabe at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria. Ramaphosa is expected to succeed Zuma as ANC president in 2017.

Mugabe has regained a measure of respectability after being re-elected in 2013 in an election that was broadly considered to be free and fair.

He is currently serving as chairperson of both the African Union and the Southern African Development Community.

Even though there are up to 3?million Zimbabweans living in South Africa, many of whom are unhappy with Mugabe’s rule, the only protest during the state visit was one about baby elephants, which was attended by about 10 people.

Gabriel Shumba from the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum said the lack of protest was because Zimbabwean human rights organisations opposed to Mugabe were struggling to get funding from outside sources after the 2013 elections.

He said the visit “failed to deal with the fundamental causes for people leaving Zimbabwe to South Africa and the neighbouring countries”.

“We would have expected Zuma to take the attitude that it’s not business as usual,” Shumba said.

He said the political situation in Zimbabwe was getting worse, citing the example of journalist and pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara, who was abducted from a barber shop in Harare about a month ago.

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