PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe turned up the rhetoric against foreign-owned companies as his Zanu PF party launched an anti-sanctions petition at a rally in Harare on Wednesday.
Mugabe vowed to seize British and American companies in Zimbabwe unless they publicly denounced sanctions imposed by their countries.
The veteran leader appended his signature to an anti-sanctions petition which Zanu PF says it hopes to take to at least two million Zimbabweans.
“It is not enough to speak against sanctions,” Mugabe told the rally attended by some 20,000 flag-waving supporters in the capital, Harare. “We can’t keep hosting more than 400 British firms here, including mines. It is now time to take measures against them.”
Barclays Plc and Standard Chartered Plc are among the British companies operating in Zimbabwe, alongside miners Anglo American Plc and Rio Tinto Plc.
A new Indigenisation and Empowerment Act, which has been approved by lawmakers, will compel foreign and white-owned businesses to cede 51 percent of their shares to black Zimbabweans.
“I have said the indigenisation and empowerment process should start with those firms,” Mugabe said, referring to British companies. “We must take them over. We can also boycott their products.”
The threat to seize foreign firms has deeply-divided the country’s ruling coalition, with the two MDC parties both denouncing the threats.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party, in a statement following Mugabe’s address, said “it is not government policy to forcibly seize foreign-owned businesses under the guise of indigenisation”.
Mfandaidza Hove, the party’s spokesman on industry and commerce said: “The MDC finds Mugabe’s statements confused and contradictory. Recently when he opened the “One Stop Shop” at the Zimbabwe Investment Authority, he appealed for increased foreign direct investment.
“Today, he has shifted his position calling for the wholesale takeover of existing business entities. We in the MDC are for the creation of an enabling environment for greater investment, respect for private business initiatives, encouraging Zimbabweans to lawfully expand the economic cake, rather than shrink it further by plundering the few existing companies struggling to take off after years of politically-induced economic stagnation, hyperinflation, economic mismanagement and endemic corruption.”
The party rejected state media reports that Tsvangirai, or any of the party’s senior officials, would be appending their signatures to the petition.
Sanctions drive ... Zanu PF supporters at the rally in Harare
Full weight ... President Robert Mugabe and Vice President John Nkomo at rally