PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has said his empowerment minister was wrong to sign-off the Zimplats indigenisation compliance deal which has left the tax-payer facing a possible US$350 million hit.
Mugabe piled pressure on Saviour Kasukuwere over the Zimplats deal during an interview with state media to mark his 89th birthday.
The Zanu PF leader said Kasukuwere was wrong to endorse an agreement that requires the government to pay for shares acquired under the country’s indigenisation programme.
South Africa-based Impala Platinum (Implats), early this year, reached a deal to reduce its interest in Zimplats to 49 percent from about 87 percent in line with the country’s indigenisation legislation.
Foreign companies cannot own more than 51 percent of their Zimbabwe operations under a programme driven by Mugabe’s Zanu PF party but opposed by his coalition partners.
Under the terms of the US$971 million Zimplats deal, 20 percent of the shares were handed to community and employee share schemes while the state-run National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Fund (NIEEF) would take-over a 31 percent interest in the platinum miner.
Implats however, insisted that Zimbabwe must pay about US$350 million for the NIEEB shareholding.
"If they don't come up with the cash the stake will not be transferred," Implats’ then chief executive, David Brown, said at the time.
But Mugabe said the mineral resource belonged to Zimbabwe and should make up the country’s 51 percent contribution to the business. He said Kasukuwere made a mistake when he agreed the deal.
“Problem ndiyoyo, ivo vakatipa 51 percent vachiti chikwereti chatirikukupai asi tirikukubhadharirai mangwana mozotibhadhara that is where the difference is,” the Zanu PF leader said
“I think that is where our minister made a mistake. He did not quite understand what was happening and yet theory yedu ndeyekuti resource iyoyo ndeyedu and that resource is our share that is where the 51 percent comes from.”
Kasukuwere has led the charge to force foreign companies to comply with the country’s indigenisation laws and, buoyed by the Zimplats deal, recently indicated he would target the banking sector.
However, questions have been raised over some of the transactions agreed to date with critics also querying the role of a Harare-based advisory firm which is demanding US$17 million for consultancy work on the Zimplats deal alone.
Implats has refused to pay the fee arguing the company was engaged by and provided its services to the NIEEB and the Zimbabwe government.
Meanwhile, the government has given Implats 30 days to appeal the seizure of about 28,000 hectares of land believed to hold significant mineral resources for allocation to new investors.
“The President intends to acquire compulsorily part of the land held by Zimplats Holdings … for the utilisation of such mining location for the benefit of the public,” a government notice said Saturday.
However Implats is already demanding US$153 million from the government for ground released in 2006 and has said conclusion of the indigenisation transaction also depends on an agreement being reached over the sum.