Divisions between coalition partners in Zimbabwe's inclusive government widened Thursday as the two major parties, President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formation, clashed openly on the country’s controversial empowerment policy.
Indigenization Minister Savior Kasukuwere in a statement early Thursday upped the ante against foreign mining firms declaring that the state now considered it owned 51 percent of firms that have not complied with local ownership laws.
Mr. Tsvangirai's office immediately issued a statement telling mining firms to ignore Kasukuwere's declaration.
Kasukuwere stated that any profits accruing to the 51 percent stakes should be regarded as state property, adding affected companies should know that they will now be dealing with the government.
He warned that those who may attempt to defraud the state will be prosecuted.
His statement followed Tuesday’s boycott by ZANU-PF ministers of a council of ministers meeting called by Mr. Tsvangirai to discuss the empowerment issue.
Mr. Tsvangirai's office said Kasukuwere’s declaration was null and void noting that mining firms should ignore the directive since the coalition government had not sanctioned it.
However, in an interview with the AFP news agency later Thursday, Kasukuwere said the statement was only a threat. But contacted by the VOA Studio 7, the empowerment minister said he stood by his proclamation that the state now owned 51 percent stakes in mining firms that have failed to comply with the black empowerment law.
Director Godfrey Kanyenze of the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute said Kasukuwere’s move is a cocktail for disaster.
Attorney Kucaca Phulu said affected companies should seek legal advice or risk being nationalized. "They should watch out otherwise they will lose majority shares to government," said Phulu.