Govt mulls grabbing companies for free

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The government is considering not paying anything for the 51% stake it plans to acquire from foreign-owned companies, Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has said.

Foreign-owned companies are expected to cede 51% of their shareholding to locals under the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act.

According to media reports from South Africa, Kasukuwere told mining companies and others at a conference organised by the SA Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg, that it did not make sense to make Zimbabweans pay for their minerals.

“Why should I pay for minerals that belong to us? You can’t value on the basis of an asset that is not yours. Then I have to tax the people of Zimbabwe to pay for their resources,” Kasukuwere said.

Asked if this meant miners risked getting nothing for their shares, Kasukuwere said: “That’s a commercial decision, isn’t it? I mean if it makes sense that you’re going to be exploiting these resources worth so much, if it makes sense, then that is how we must proceed.”

Prodded further on whether the policy would be implemented along the lines of the country’s land reforms, Kasukuwere ominously remarked: “Exactly. It’s the same . . .”

Foreign-owned mining companies have until May 9 2011 to submit plans for complying with the indigenisation law and if approved should be implemented within six months.

However, Kasukuwere said there was no need for panic: “I think it is always better that investors are at ease in jurisdictions where they are working and that there is fair benefit that also accrues to the people of the country,” he said.

He said as part of measures to ensure ordinary Zimbabweans benefitted a Sovereign Wealth Fund to store value for generations to come would be set up.