Harare - Zimbabwe will soon probe foreign-owned firms to
establish their level of compliance with a law requiring them to sell at least
a 51% shareholding in their Zimbabwean operations to locals, an official said
The heavily criticised law is aimed mainly at mining firms
and banks operating in a resource-rich state that has become an economic basket
case because of what analysts say are years of mismanagement by President
Robert Mugabe's government.
Critics see the law as a way for the government to squeeze
cash out of foreign firms in Zimbabwe and say the money will go to top
officials, not to ordinary people, who rank among the poorest in the world.
The ministry charged with enforcing the law will team up
with police to conduct the investigations, Wilson Gwatiringa, chief executive
of the body set up to advise the government on implementing the law, told
"The board is aware that many non-indigenous companies have
not complied with the indigenisation law as they are reluctant to submit their
plans for approval," Gwatiringa said.
Foreign firms deemed non-compliant could be fined or have
their operating licences cancelled.
Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere gave the mining
industry until September 30 to turn over majority stakes to locals or face asset
seizures. But that deadline is set to pass without incident as the authorities
are in ownership talks with mining firms.
The world's leading platinum producer, Anglo Platinum [JSE:AMS],
number two producer Impala Platinum Holdings [JSE:IMP] and Rio Tinto,
which operates a
diamond mine, are some of the major foreign mining firms with assets in
"Rather than a standardised process, the implementation of
the law is driven by rent-seeking," said political risk consultancy Africa
specialist Anne Fruhauf.
A major reason for the law is to allow Mugabe's ZANU-PF
party to build up a war chest ahead of national elections that could come as
early as next year, she said.
Critics say Zimbabwe, which is emerging from a decade-long
slump during which its economy contracted by as much as 50%, has no capacity to
raise the funds needed to take over the mining assets.
Mugabe was forced to share power with his rival
, now prime minister, two years ago after disputed elections
in 2008. The two have sharp differences over the ownership policy, which
Tsvangirai says threatens Zimbabwe's economic recovery.