Mugabe defends local takeover of Zim firms

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday defended his government’s drive to transfer majority control of foreign-owned firms to local black Zimbabweans, saying wise investors would continue to put money into the country.

Minister of Indigenisation and Empowerment Saviour Kasukuwere, a Mugabe ally in Zimbabwe’s fractious unity government, told foreign firms last week to present plans on how they would transfer 51% shareholdings to local black people within 45 days from March 1.

Mugabe rejected suggestions that implementation of an indigenisation law passed in 2007 would frighten off foreign investors, saying they could still hold large stakes in local companies.

“Forty-nine percent is a hell lot of equity; it is only the foolish ones who will say no,” he told reporters. “Wise ones will take it up.”

By contrast, Mugabe’s political rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said last week that the regulations were null and void because they had been published without being reviewed by him or the Cabinet.

Analysts say the dispute shows rising tension in the year-old coalition government, which has failed to attract much-needed foreign aid and investment due to frequent wrangles over reforms.

This week the European Union extended sanctions on Zimbabwe for another 12 months, citing a lack of progress in fulfilling the power-sharing pact.

‘We know their attitude’
Mugabe earlier told an international tourism investment conference, hosted by his government, that foreign investors should partner African states to develop the sector.

The veteran leader, who turns 86 on Sunday, slammed the EU’s decision to extend the sanctions, which he says are meant to punish him for his seizure of white commercial farms to resettle landless black Zimbabweans.

“We know their attitude, they don’t want anyone, any country in the developing world, to make any meaningful developmental strides,” Mugabe said.

“That attitude is more pronounced even in regard to Zimbabwe. When they make those noises, it is because they lost that which they occupied illegally, which is now in our possession,” he said referring to his land-seizure drive.

Mugabe said Zimbabwe was cooperating with the Kimberley Process — a certification scheme set up to monitor diamond trades following wars financed by the gems — to reform diamond mining at its Marange diamond fields.

However, he added: “We are trying to play it their way, that is following the Kimberley Process, but we can do it otherwise and we can sell our own diamonds elsewhere.” — Reuters

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