Saturday, March 09, 2013

(NEWZIMBABWE) Kasukuwere signals Zimplats u-turn

Kasukuwere signals Zimplats u-turn
08/03/2013 00:00:00
by Reuters

EMPOWERMENT minister Saviour Kasukuwere said on Thursday a deal signed with South Africa's Impala Platinum was "non-binding" and could be changed, sowing confusion over a process that has divided the country's unity government.

Impala agreed in January to sell a majority stake in its Zimplats unit to Zimbabwean investors for $971-million to meet black ownership targets set by President Robert Mugabe.

However, Kasukuwere said the agreement was not set in stone.

"You have to remember that this was a non-binding agreement that we signed with Zimplats. It allows all parties to raise issues they want and if there is a change of circumstances," he told Reuters.

Under the deal, Zimplats provides a loan to the new shareholders at annual interest of 10%. The debt is to be repaid through dividends over 10 years, while management of Zimplats will remain with the company.

But Mugabe said in an interview with state TV last week that the country’s mineral resources - it is believed to have the world's largest platinum reserves after South Africa - should constitute shareholding for the locals and said Kasukuwere might have "made a mistake" by agreeing to the loan deal.

The veteran leader originally wanted to seize majority shares in foreign-owned mines without paying, a move fiercely resisted by unity government partner Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change party.

Separately, Impala said on Tuesday Harare planned to buy about 50% of its mining claims and use them for "the benefit of the public".

The company said it was taking legal advice and that it remained in consultation with government.
Kasukuwere said this could change the empowerment agreement.

"They are losing part of their land so does that not constitute changed circumstances? It could change the structure of the deal," said Kasukuwere.

The Zimplats deal is Zimbabwe's largest local ownership transaction and a major scalp for Mugabe's controversial black economic empowerment push, the centrepiece of his campaign for re-election.

Kasukuwere's latest comments may be designed to keep the pressure on Zimplats, which has up to the end of June to conclude the deal, and to keep the political topic warm ahead of elections due in the second half of the year.

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