Zimbabwe youth want 51% of mines

2011-07-23 19:22

Saviour Kasukuwere, Zimbabwe’s tough-talking Indigenisation and Youth Empowerment minister, has vowed to forge ahead with plans to take over a 51% controlling stake in foreign-owned mining companies operating in Zimbabwe by September, despite parliament describing the laws as “absurd”.

Addressing nearly 1 000 delegates in Harare this week at the “Indigenisation Indaba”, reputed to have been the single largest interactive platform between the Zimbabwe government and wary foreign investors uncertain over the security of their mining investments in the country, Kasukuwere refused to back down on the controversial equity laws.

Kasukuwere said, “We will kick them out and we will ask them to hand over their assets to the State.

“We are not doing this because we don’t want the economy to grow.

“There is absolutely no need for antagonism but we want to share the resources.”

Under the country’s Indigenisation and Empowerment Act, mining companies with a value of at least $500 000 (about R3,5 million) must submit plans on how they will cede a 51% controlling stake to indigenous Zimbabweans.

According to Kasukuwere’s ministry, 175 mining firms have so far submitted their plans, among them South Africa’s Impala Platinum, which owns Zimplats, Rio Tinto and Anglo-Platinum.

It is understood that the mining sector had been pushing for a 26% takeover stake, a proposal Kasukuwere and the National Indigenisation Economic Board rejected.

However, opposition has been mounting in government circles to Kasukuwere’s grab tactics, heightening speculation among observers that the law is being used as a populist tool by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party ahead of elections.

Differences emerged last month in Zimbabwe’s Parliament which described the law as “absurd” and urged Kasukuwere to revise the stringent penalties that would see mining executives face jail time of up to five years for non-compliance with the law.

Welshman Ncube, minister of trade and industry, this week expressed his reservations about the law and said that cabinet was “ill-advised” when it agreed to the 51% threshold imposed on mines.

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