Minister snaps up stake in Zim bank

2012-04-14 14:39

Zimbabwe’s megarich minister of mines, Obert Mpofu, has consolidated himself as a major player in the country’s economic and political spheres by acquiring a huge stake in one of the struggling banks.

In Zanu-PF politics, access to resources is vital for one’s survival because rival factions fighting to take over from President Robert Mugabe lure big players through money.

Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG), which was 92.8% owned by the government, now has Mpofu’s company, Trebo and Kays, as the majority shareholder. “Trebo” is a code-switched word for his first name, “Obert”.

Also on board in the shareholding structures are Unicapital from Mauritius and Swiss company AFG Global.

Mpofu’s consortium got the majority stake in the bank because of the country’s indigenisation laws, which stipulate that locals should own majority ownership of all business entities in the country.

This is seen as a forerunner to the threat given to banks by Minister of Indigenisation Saviour Kasukuwere.
The ZABG failed to stay afloat when it was owned by the government, with a negative balance of $15.35 million (R122 million).

The Reserve Bank stipulated that all banks should meet capital requirements by April 23 or risk being closed down.

This meant the ZABG had to get $15.35 million to get to a zero balance and then look for $12.5 million for capital requirements. The bulk of the money to rescue the ZABG came from Mpofu.

In a statement this week the Reserve Bank confirmed that the ZABG had been bailed out of the red.

“Two banks namely, the ZABG and Royal Bank, will escape the chop as they have succeeded in courting credible investors who have put their offers on the table,” said central bank governor Gideon Gono.

The ZABG has a huge base to start working on to leap to a profit-making position.

“The bank has 23 branches located in cities, towns and rural areas across the country,” the bank says on its profile.

“It is a diversified banking institution that offers financial services encompassing retail banking, wholesale banking, corporate advisory services, treasury, assert management and leasing finance.

“Products on offer also include internet banking, SMS banking, personal and corporate loans, specialised banking services for small to medium-size enterprises and DStv subscriptions.”

Mpofu’s financial muscle will come in handy as Zanu-PF prepares to regain control.

Zanu-PF loyalists traditionally pledge what they have to offer financially to boost the party’s campaign for elections.

Analysts say part of the matrix is that Zanu-PF has somehow managed to stay in control of resources and money-generating projects, making the party’s job easy.

Said political commentator James Muringani: “During election time, money is a big factor. The MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) will rely on the donor community, while Zanu-PF has access to the diamond fields and a hold in the banking sector.”

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