Zim to revisit mines' foreign-ownership laws

HARARE - Zimbabwe will look to revisit laws that restrict foreign ownership of mining licences in the next two to three months, but will not seize mine assets from foreign investors, Mines deputy minister Gift Chimanikire has said.

A review of the current so-called “indigenisation” law will take place after presidential elections in July, the minister said.

Under the law, Zimbabwean nationals must own 51 percent of any company given a mining licence in the country.

This is not the first time that Chimanikire’s Movement for Democratic Change MDC — which is currently in an uneasy government coalition with Zanu PF since 2009 — has made hints of reversing the controversial legislation.

Early this month Finance minister Tendai Biti threatened to undo empowerment deals signed by Indigenisation minister Savior Kasukuwere, if his MDC party wins the forthcoming elections.

Biti said Kasukuwere’s controversial policy would be replaced with a broad-based empowerment model.

The Finance minister warned that all indigenisation deals signed by Zimplats, Unki and other foreign-owned companies will be cancelled in the first 100 days of Morgan Tsvangirai in office.

The controversial policy — which has faced stiff disapproval from various stakeholders in the economy — has seen venture capitalists shying away from the southern African country to investor-friendly economies.

Chimanikire told The Wall Street journal on the sidelines of a conference in Tokyo that the government is considering amendments to the Mines and Minerals Act, including making any changes in ownership over staggered periods.

“The government will try again to make a new indigenisation law,” he said.

But Chimanikire stressed that there were no plans to forcibly nationalise assets owned by foreign companies.

“It is not the government’s policy to nationalise Zimbabwe. Neither is it government policy to take away any assets that belong to a private company,” he said.

The two-day conference, which began on Thursday, is the first in Japan focusing on African mineral resources, with ministers and senior officials from 15 mostly sub-Saharan countries taking part.

Some 50 Japanese companies are also attending, seeking opportunities on infrastructure projects and mineral development.

About possible investment from Japan, the deputy minister said Zimbabwe welcomes “introduction of competition” among foreign investors, saying it is an answer to “a monopoly.”

China has been heavily investing in resource-rich African countries, including Zimbabwe, for years, exporting the products to China to support its economic growth.

Zimbabwe is a major producer of diamonds, platinum and gold.

Chimanikire said that China had been willing to invest when other countries refused to help the country.

“When you have no friends, any friend is a good friend,” he said, adding that China came in when Zimbabwe was shunned by the rest of the world. — Business Writer/Wall Street Journal

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