Only Chinese investors will be considered for investment in Shabanie Mashaba Mines Holdings (SMM) Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa has declared.
Chinamasa shocked parliamentarians on Monday while giving testimony on the SMM Holdings saga when he said the Inter-Ministerial Committee on SMM Holdings gave a directive that Zimbabwe was not going to have any other investor at the asbestos mines except the Chinese.
The Justice minister was appearing before the Edward Chindori-Chininga-led Parliament Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy to give his side of the story over the furore that has rocked the comatose mine.
Chindori-Chininga, who is MP for Guruve South, asked Chinamasa to explain why the government said they would only accept Chinese investors and ignoring investors from other countries yet the asbestos mines were in urgent need of investment.
Chinamasa had said SMM was in urgent need of at least $115 million.
Responding to Chindori-Chininga, the minister said the decision to consider only Chinese investors had been taken because Western countries had imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe.
“That is a decision which was actually taken by the Cabinet Committee given the situation of sanctions that this country is under,” said Chinamasa.
“It made sense that if we looked for investors, they should be people from countries that have not imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe and we are directly administering that.”
However, members of the mines and energy committee expressed shock and told Chinamasa the decision was unwise given that the asbestos mines urgently needed resuscitation and more than 5 600 people who worked at the mine during its heydays had been subjected to a lot of suffering due to its paralysed state.
Glen View North MP Fani Munengami (MDC-T), Chiredzi West MP Moses Mare (MDC-T), and Chivi South MP Ivene Dzingirai (Zanu PF), said it was not right for government to decide to only consider investors from the East when the SMM Holdings issue was a serious humanitarian case.
“The issue is that government has taken very long to find an investor for SMM Holdings. Who is discouraging the Chinese from coming to invest in SMM Holdings?” asked Munengami.
Mare also fired at Chinamasa: “Supposing it takes 100 years for you to find those Chinese investors, what is going to happen because this is a serious humanitarian issue?”
Chinamasa however stuck to his guns and said any investor interested in bailing out SMM Holdings would have to come through the government.
“Everything depends on the world economic situation and the fact that Zimbabwe is under economic sanctions, all those will be factors that will contribute as to whether or not the investor will be found.
“ I think it is clear who is in charge, and I am saying it is government which is the owner of SMM Holdings, and any investor interested must come to the government,” Chinamasa said.
Chinamasa’s party, Zanu PF, has declared economic war on those countries that imposed travel bans on its officials and threatened to retaliate by nationalising British and American companies operating in Zimbabwe as an anti-sanctions stance.
Chinamasa said finding an investor for SMM Holdings was part of the proposed scheme of reconstruction when government placed the asbestos mines under a curator, Afaras Gwaradzimba.
He said part of the reconstruction plans were to dispose of all non-core subsidiaries of SMM Holdings which drained resources from the company, appointing a consultant and a board to help the administrator in the turnaround of Africa Associated Mines, a subsidiary of SMM Holdings, as well as finding an investor for the ailing asbestos mines.