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Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai Denounces Indigenization as Plan for 'Looting'

Indigenization Minister Saviour Kasukuwere told reporters in South Africa recently that foreign-owned mining firms will not be paid for controlling stakes to be taken, which observers said amounts to nationalization

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai this week delivered his toughest criticism to date of the indigenization or black empowerment plan being advanced by his partners in government, calling it a scheme to loot and plunder national resources.

In a message e-mailed on Monday, Independence Day in Zimbabwe, Mr. Tsvangirai said the indigenization program pushed by the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe deceptively represented the initiative as one that would benefit the people.

"By this they are not referring to broad-based empowerment of the ordinary man and woman," Tsvangirai wrote, "but the looting and plunder of national resources by a small, parasitic elite." The prime minister referred to the advocates of indigenization as "multi-millionaires and multiple farm-owners," the latter a reference to the land reform process which transferred white-owned commercial farms to top ZANU-PF officials.

“Let us not grasp at seemingly easy, short-term gains while continuing to live under the yoke of repression,” he said, charging that current pro-indigenization rhetoric is driven by "partisan political motives and personal greed.”

Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Minister Tapiwa Mashakada, a member of Mr. Tsvangirai's party, said the empowerment program is discouraging investment.

Mr. Tsvangirai’s remarks followed reported comments by Indigenization Minister Saviour Kasukuwere at a business conference in Johannesburg saying foreign-owned mining firms will not be paid for the controlling stakes to be taken under the program, but that the value of such stakes will be determined by resources still in the ground.

Economist John Robertson dismissed this approach to valuation as nonsensical and a clear attempt by the state to nationalize private mining companies.

“It is unfortunate that his economic model is laced with politics and as a result it is not workable in any part of the world,” Robertson told reporter Gibbs Dube.

Economic commentator Bekithemba Mhlanga said Kasukuwere’s model can only work if it is accompanied by a strong legal structure giving rights to local inhabitants.

Elsewhere, in a development reminiscent of land reform turmoil, ZANU PF activists acting in seeming cooperation with police and soldiers were said to have evicted supporters of the Tsvangirai MDC formation from farmlands they had long been working in Epworth, a community on the periphery of Harare in Mashonaland East province.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi noted that the incident came one day after President Mugabe urged Zimbabweans to co-exist despite political differences.