Zimplats' call for extension denied

Zimbabwe has rejected a request by platinum miner Zimplats to extend a deadline to hand over a nearly 30% stake under a contentious equity law, in a letter seen on Wednesday by Agence France-Presse.

Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukwere gave Zimplats, the local unit of South Africa’s Impala Platinum, a two-week ultimatum on February 22 to sell a 29.5% stake to locals or risk nationalisation.

“You are advised that your request for a 30-day extension has been rejected by the honourable minister and your company is expected to comply with the law,” his ministry said in a letter to Zimplats boss Alex Mhembere.

The two-week deadline is due on Wednesday and Kasukwere has threatened to seize the shares if no deal is reached.

“Companies that refuse to comply will leave us with no option but to take them over. The law is clear on that one,” he told Parliament two weeks ago.

Development funds
The government initially gave foreign companies up to September last year to hand in plans on how they intended to sell 51% stakes to locals.

The deadline was later extended to allow negotiations with companies that offered to give shares in the form of development funds in the local communities.

Mimosa Holdings, a Zimplats joint venture with Aquarius Platinum, last month took a step toward complying with the law. It put $2-million into a community trust fund meant to repair roads and provide clean water for residents near the mine.

But so far Zimplats has not been able to reach a deal for overall compliance, with parts of its plan rejected last month.

The local shareholding programme is one of the more contentious issues in the unity government of long-ruling President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai has said the indigenisation drive will push away foreign investment, just as the country is recovering from a decade-long economic collapse.—Sapa-AFP

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