Following extended negotiations this week, the Zimbabwean government has given Impala Platinum Holdings of South Africa until November to present an acceptable plan to transfer a controlling stake in its Zimplats unit to indigenous or black investors.
Indigenization Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has threatened to revoke Zimplats's licence if the parent does not submit a plan for black investors to take a 51 percent stake.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper said the corporation’s Zimbabwe operating unit, Zimbabwe Platinum Holdings, will be appraised by independent firms before the company submits a new indigenization plan within two months.
Quoting government sources, the paper said Zimplats asked for more time to prepare the plan. Zimplats offered to transfer a 25 percent stake to indigenous investors with another 26 percent equivalent made up in spending on community programs.
Kasukuwere and Zimplats spokeswoman Busi Chindove were not available for comment.
Economist Tony Hawkins said the face-off between Harare and mining companies is driving away much-needed investment. “This program is causing a lot of problems for the country which stands to lose a lot in terms of investment opportunities,” Hawkins said.
Elsewhere, the International Monetary Fund says that while Zimbabwe’s loan arrears have slightly decreased, it is feared further payments may be derailed by serious policy setbacks including the country’s aggressive indigenization program.
An IMF statement said Zimbabwean cooperation on arrears payments remains poor – but it noted improvements in 2010 before policy shifts this year raised economic doubts.
The lender of last resort notes major gains in improving Reserve Bank governance and tackling structural impediments to growth. But gains like these could be reversed by government moves to take control of the critical mines sector.
The IMF said Zimbabwe made payments on arrears in 2010 totaling US$4.1 million, following which Harare made a commitment to pay US$100,000 each quarter to the institution.
“These payments exceeded Zimbabwe’s new obligations falling due for the period and the authorities’ commitment to quarterly payments to the fund,” said the IMF, adding that the country “has made no payment to the fund so far in 2011.”
It further said renewed efforts to strengthen policies and favorable external shocks had contributed to the improvements in macroeconomic performance.
Economist Eric Bloch commends Harare for such payments – but warns that they could come to a halt very soon due to political uncertainty.