Zimbabwe: Mugabe eyes seizure of platinum mines
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addressing suppporters at ZANU-PF party's annual conference in the northwestern mining town on Bindura on December 19, 2008. (Getty Images)
September 1st, 2011
11:30 PM ET

Zimbabwe: Mugabe eyes seizure of platinum mines

By Andrew Meldrum, GlobalPost

Robert Mugabe is pressing ahead with a policy that many warn will be disastrous for the Zimbabwean economy.

Mugabe's regime is moving ahead to implement the controversial "indigenization" of Zimbabwe's mining companies and businesses.

Zimbabwe has a new law requiring all companies to have 51 percent of their shares owned by black Zimbabweans. And the Mugabe regime is making sure that the new black shareholders are supporters of the ruling party, Zanu-PF. In other words the indigenization policy will enrich supporters of the Mugabe regime and will force large mining firms and other business to be controlled by the Harare government.

Saviour Kasukuwere, Mugabe’s indigenization minister, has sent an ultimatum to a dozen foreign-owned groups. He warns that those that don't follow the new rules may lose their assets and operating licences. Their directors may be jailed.

Companies targeted include some of Zimbabwe's biggest: Rio Tinto’s Murowa Diamonds and Impala Platinum’s Zimplats, Standard Chartered Bank and Barclays Bank, British American Tobacco, Nestlé and Cargill Zimbabwe. The deadline for submitting compliance plans was the end of August; for implementing them, it is the end of September.

Kasukuwere, a rising political star, is talking tough. The law allows firms to perform "good works" instead of surrendering equity, but Kasukuwere is not interested in company's charity acts. He also rejects an idea, suggested by Zimplats, that firms could sell their shares to black Zimbabweans by listing them on the stock exchange.

Kasukuwere said that firms must give a 51 percent stake to a sovereign-wealth fund, with no guarantee of any compensation. All mines worth more than $1 are affected.

A showdown looms with major foreign-controlled mining corporations.

Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (IMP), the world’s second-largest producer of the metal, said it is in talks with the Mugabe government as the deadline for the company to boost its local ownership has expired.

Impala, which is based in South Africa, declined to say whether it submitted revised proposals, according to Bloomberg. Aquarius Platinum Ltd., which is based in London and also has mines in Zimbabwe, also declined to comment.

Zimbabwe, which has the world’s second largest reserves of platinum after South Africa, is now enforcing the law passed earlier this year requiring foreign companies to cede at least 51 percent of their local assets to black Zimbabweans. Impala and Aquarius had until Aug. 31 to revise proposals of local ownership that the Mugabe government had rejected. Impala is spending $460 million expanding its Ngezi mine in Zimbabwe and co-owns the Mimosa mine with Aquarius.

Impala will not hand control of its Zimbabwean operations to the Mugabe government, said Impala chief executive David Brown in Johannesburg. He said he is disappointed that Impala faces ultimatums in Zimbabwe where it has been a “model investor” for about 10 years.

This showdown over control of Zimbabwe's mines could be the latest area where Mugabe's regime seizes control of valuable economic assets, as it has done with white-owned farms. The farm seizures enriched Mugabe's closest associates, but impoverished the rest of the country as they set off an economic collapse in which agricultural output plummeted and ordinary Zimbabweans went hungry.

The mine and business seizures could result in a similar economic disaster for Zimbabwe, warn economists.

Many are calling the new policy expropriation. Critics say Mugabe's "indigenization" is just a fancy word for plunder.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Andrew Meldrum.

Topics: Africa

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Mike Houston

    What do the Chinese mining interests in Zimbabwe say to this?

    September 2, 2011 at 3:03 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Since embargos, sanctions and travel ban were imposed on the ruling elite by the West, Mugabe has been looking east! He said, "the sun rises in the east". His children have studied or still do in Hong Kong and China. Grace embarks on her luxury shopping spree in Asian metropoles. Maybe Mugabe wouldn't rob the Chinese of their investments in Zimbabwe.

      September 2, 2011 at 6:21 am | Reply
    • WHITES ARE THIEVES/MURDERERS

      We always hear and see from the Media,"Foreigners are sending Foods and donations to Africa."

      We NEVER HEARD and SEEN from the Medias, FOREIGNERS ROBBED AND STOLES AFRICAN PROPERTIES AND RESOURCES AND BROUGHT IT TO EUROPE, NORTH-AMERICA, ASIA AND AUSTRALIA.

      How long the secrets to be hidden??

      September 2, 2011 at 11:14 am | Reply
  2. WHITES ARE THIEVES/MURDERERS

    Whites are evils.
    They use Blacks to kill Blacks,
    They use Blacks land for their own
    benefits.

    Get out!!!! Let Blacks be free!!!!

    September 2, 2011 at 10:23 am | Reply
  3. Charles

    Mugabe seizes peoples' property, and no Chinese companies affected, MDC Finance Minister approves $20m luxury cars for ministers, reintroduces tax on imported basic commodities and prices skyrocket with shortages of basic commodities looming, land seizures continue human rights abuses in the diamond rich Marange, & elsewhere, corruptio in government & where else goes unabated .....(adfinitum) The MDC is in the Government & silent about it all because they are aboard Mugabe's gravy train now. The question now is who else can be trusted in Zimbabwe's political leadership?

    September 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  4. Charles

    Mugabe seizes peoples' investments, no Chinese companies affected, MDC Finance Minister approves $20m luxury cars for ministers, reintroduces tax on imported basic commodities and prices skyrocket with shortages of basic commodities looming, land seizures continue human rights abuses in the diamond rich Marange, & elsewhere, corruption in government circles & elsewhere goes unabated .....(adfinitum) The MDC is in the Government & silent about it all because they are now aboard Mugabe's gravy train. The question now is who else can be trusted in Zimbabwe's present & future political leadership?

    September 7, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Reply
  5. WHITES ARE THIEVES/MURDERERS

    Mugabe is not tougher enough to save his land and people from Foreigners.

    Didn't Slavery teaching him well??!!??

    September 2, 2011 at 11:00 am | Reply

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