Zim’s ‘black empowerment minister’ to take platinum mine

by Gillian Gotora

AP – Zimbabwe’s black empowerment minister said Wednesday he will proceed with a takeover of the country’s biggest platinum mine if the South African owners don’t comply with orders to hand over more stakes in the company to blacks.

Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said there is “no compromise” over the eventual handover of 51 percent of the company’s stock as is required by “indigenization” laws.

Last year, Zimplats became the first foreign-owned company to cede 10 percent of its holdings to a local community trust. Zimbabwe has ordered the company to hand over another 30 percent by mid-March. South African-based Implats owns 87 percent of existing shares in Zimplats.

Zimbabwe and South Africa are the world’s largest suppliers of platinum, a corrosion-resistant metal with a wide range of industrial uses that is priced higher than gold.

Kasukuwere told the Associated Press Wednesday that a proposed visit by Implats’ chief executive to discuss the matter would not change the government’s decision.

He said he has no plans to meet with Implats chief David Brown.

“I don’t need to meet them over anything. Why are they coming to see me? I’m not a zoo,” Kasukuwere told The AP. “I have nothing to discuss. They must respect the laws of this country,”

Parliament last year passed a law that calls for all foreign-controlled businesses to take on black partners as majority stockholders.

The former opposition party of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has voiced concerns that the prospect of hasty takeovers scares off much-needed investment. The party has called for accountability and careful implementation of the “indigenization” program that risks collapsing some viable businesses and mines.

President Robert Mugabe’s party – which is in a shaky three-year coalition with Tsvangirai – says China can provide new technical expertise in mining and manufacturing.

Foreign cash inflows have dwindled in recent months amid uncertainty over the security of possible investments.

This month, banks, including major international banks, have reported growing shortages of cash for day-to-day transactions in Zimbabwe. Executives say the liquidity crisis has been fueled by businesses that cannot repay bank loans because not enough money is coming in to service the loans.

Industrial production has remained stagnant after years of economic meltdown with many factories desperate for cash to replace aging equipment and machinery.

Last year, Kasukuwere announced that he had canceled the Zimplats mining license but backed down after Zimbabwe’s mining minister ruled the cancellation void.

Kasukuwere, 42, seen as a younger militant in the top ranks of Mugabe’s party – which is dominated by veteran politicians aged in their 70s and led by Mugabe, 88- is tasked with securing Zimbabwe’s resources for black control.

Critics of new business takeovers point to a possible repetition of land seizures since 2000 that have seen many of the best former white-owned farms allocated to politicians and Mugabe party loyalists who have left them to lie idle.