Harare - Zimabwe’s government raised the stakes on Thursday in its drive to wrest majority control of foreign mining companies, with a minister saying the state now considered it owned 51% of firms that have not complied with local ownership laws.
“All mining companies that have not complied... should note that 51% of their shareholding is now deemed to be owned by the state,” Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said.
It was not immediately clear which firms were being targeted, or
whether President Robert Mugabe’s cash-strapped government planned to pay for
the shares. Kasukuwere did not respond to requests for clarification.
The demand for foreign companies, particularly miners, to transfer
a 51% stake in local operations to black investors is widely seen as a
tactic by Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party to raise cash for elections that may come this
Johannesburg-listed Impala Platinum Holding [JSE:IMP]
the world’s second-biggest
platinum producer, bowed to pressure last month to surrender half its Zimplats
unit, although details of the transfer have not yet been worked out.
Analysts said this latest broadside from Kasukuwere might be more
bluster than fact.
“I would treat this with quite a degree of scepticism,” said Nic
Borain, an independent political analyst based in Cape Town.
“I would want to wait to see the specifics of how those shares
would be transferred, how the assets would come to be in government hands, how
government would exercise any control over those assets.”
The statement added that any profits accruing to the 51%
stakes “should be regarded as property of the state”, and that other companies
transacting with mining firms should remember that they are dealing with the
“Any attempt to defraud the state will result in prosecution,” it
Kasukuwere has previously said most major firms have complied or
are in the process of complying, but he has not publicly endorsed plans relating
to leading gold producer Metallon Gold, an unlisted South African miner, and
Mwana Africa’s Bindura Nickel corporation.
Harare says its “indigenisation” policy is needed to redress the
racial inequities of past colonial rule, but similar drives in other sectors
have been disasters, most notably the government’s seizure of white-owned
farmland that decimated commercial agriculture and led to widespread food