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Zimbabwe Indigenization Minister Moots Zimplats Share Transfer in October

Kasukuwere struck a conciliatory note by saying most mining corporations have complied with the first phase of black empowerment - but shocked many in announcing the transfer of Zimplats shares in October

Zimbabwean Minister of Indigenization Saviour Kasukuwere said Thursday that most big mining companies have moved to comply with legislation and rules stipulating that foreign firms must transfer 51 percent of their equity to black Zimbabweans.

Addressing journalists, Kasukuwere said companies are expected to start putting shares in the hands of black Zimbabweans, and those firms which do not comply with the law and related regulations will face legal sanctions such as the loss of licenses.

Kasukuwere struck a conciliatory note by saying most mining corporations have complied with the first phase of black empowerment. But mining executives and critics expressed surprise and dismay that he proposes to start parceling out shares next month.

The Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act provides for equity to be transferred over a five-year period, and there is little clarity as to how firms will be compensated.

Executives and economists said it is unclear how companies can start transferring shares as no legal agreements between companies and the state are in place as yet.

They characterized Kasukuwere's move to oblige companies to transfer shares within the next few weeks as “equity theft,” saying it is unclear who the beneficiaries will be.

Mining executives who declined to be named said Kasukuwere has ordered them to set up community trusts whose beneficiaries are not clearly indicated - though in the case of platinum producer Zimplats, the principals of a trust set to receive a 10 percent stake in the South African-controlled firm are Kasukuwere and other ministers.

“These are partnerships that should allow our youths and communities to fight poverty and unemployment," Kasukuwere said in a posting to his Facebook page.

He said the Mhondoro-Ngezi community near the Zimplats operation "will now benefit from the resources that have been extracted for years."

Economist Godfrey Kanyenze said the transfer of shares should be stopped as there is as yet no legal framework for such transactions.

Economic commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said Kasukuwere is using indigenization to invade mining firms, as white-owned commercial farms were invaded by war veterans and other supporters of President Robert Mugabe over the past decade.

“There is no way that companies can start transferring equity stakes to black Zimbabweans when there is no agreement between companies and potential shareholders on how these shares will be paid for,” Ngwenya said.