Zim: No softening of law for mines

President Robert Mugabe has shot down ­suggestions that the 51% indigenisation law would be softened towards ­mining companies, ­putting to rest increased speculation about changes being made to the law.

Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidakwha said last week that, in exchange for the setting up of a platinum refinery in the country, there was the possibility of a rethink of the indigenisation law regarding foreign-owned mining companies.

"There will be no exception to the 51%-to-49% indigenisation threshold, which seeks to give Zimbabweans greater control in foreign companies operating in the country", said Mugabe.

"I have heard in some quarters that there can be exceptions, but I am saying no. We are saying 51% to 49%. It's very clear, that is our stand."

Foreign shop owners in the retail sector, listed under the law as one of the sectors marked for indigenisation of the economy, are already under pressure with the December 31 compliance deadline looming.

Small and medium-sized business owners, mainly of Nigerian, Indian, Pakistani and Chinese origin, are likely to be the most affected by the push to take over the retail sector and hand it to indigenous Zimbabweans.

Small businesses benefit foreigners
Harare argues that the small businesses benefit foreigners at the expense of locals because their owners prefer to hire people of their own nationality.

Political observers said Mugabe's tough rhetoric had to be seen in the light of Zanu-PF's 14th annual people's conference in Chinhoyi that kicked off on Thursday, and a wariness that a softening of the indigenisation law would be seen by party supporters as a betrayal of election promises.

The party conference will centre on Zanu-PF's economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation.

"The staging of this conference is significant in that Zanu-PF won the July elections overwhelmingly, and is now tasked with the ­development of the economy.

"This weekend indaba will be a take-off point for the implementation of Zim Asset, which will be intensively debated and presented," said Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, the Zanu-PF secretary for education and a Politburo member. 

After Chidakwha's offer, South African Impala Platinum's Zimbabwe unit, Zimplats, said that, together with other platinum group metals producers, it was considering securing offshore loans to set up a refinery.

Mugabe's latest spurning of a moratorium on indigenisation is likely to put their efforts on the back foot.

Zimbabwe has the world's second-largest known platinum reserves after South Africa.

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