Zim policy changes show it is open for business - mining minister

Zimbabwe wants to emphasise that it is open for business, with several policy interventions to underline its intentions, according to Winston Chitando, the country's Minister of Mines and Mining Development.

Chitando was a guest speaker at a panel discussion on mining in Zimbabwe co-hosted by Africa Practice and Webber Wentzel at Mining Indaba 2019.

"We are very clear as the Zimbabwean government that to have and attract the required investment in mining policy, what is needed from our side is clarity and constancy," said Chitando.

"We have already made a few policy interventions over the last few months.

"For instance, we now limit indigenisation requirements only to diamonds and platinum."

In 2018, Zimbabwe changed its empowerment law to limit majority ownership by state entities to only diamond and platinum mines, as opposed to the entire mining sector as in previous legislation.

Private sector must recommend policies

Chitando said the Zimbabwean government was also coming up with development policies specific to minerals, to regulate how players in a particular mining sector will operate. This is already taking place in the lithium and platinum sectors.

"We have encouraged the private sector to recommend policies in this regard.

"Government will not necessarily accept all of these recommendations, but we will ensure that there will be a framework that will ensure that we attract investment," said Chitando.

New currency?

Regarding the issue of foreign currency in Zimbabwe, he said the finance minister had hinted at the possibility of the introduction of a new currency.

"We realise that foreign currency is an issue, but this is being addressed as we want to ensure the mining industry continues to grow," he said.

Privatisation 'in due course'

Furthermore, the new Zimbabwean government has already identified six state-owned assets for privatisation.

"Some of the bids we received on these were not good enough, mainly because some of the assets do not have any data, but there will be a formal announcement on the privatisations in due course," he said.

"We are very serious to work with current and prospective investors to ensure a win-win situation. At the end of the day it is about balancing the needs of Zimbabwe and the needs of investors."

During the panel discussion, Chitando was told that talks of nationalisation in some African countries concerned investors, because investors are seeking consistency of regulation so that they can plan ahead.

Access to foreign currency earned is another concern for prospective investors in Zimbabwe.

To this Chitando responded that property rights are important.

Sheila Khama, lead mining specialist at the World Bank, said as part of the panel that the Zimbabwean government must be clear on what privatisation means from an investment point of view and what the role of the Zimbabwean government will be in the process.

She further emphasised that it is very important for the Zimbabwean government to make it clear to the Zimbabwean citizens what they realistically can expect from the country’s mining industry.

"We have no doubt that Zimbabwe is serious and should be taken seriously. Of course there is always a level of sovereign risk, but we are confident that investors are able to manage such risk," she said.

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