HARARE, April 14 (The Source) – The government will balance timeframes guiding the transfer of majority stakes in foreign-owned firms to locals with the new investors’ ability to pay for the shareholding, indigenisation Minister Francis Nhema said on Monday, signalling the intention to relax the controversial policy.
President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF is championing the policy, using a 2008 law that requires all foreign firms, including mines and banks, to have majority control by local blacks.
Analysts say Nhema’s appointment, taking over from the combative Saviour Kasukuwere after the 2013 elections, has seen a marked change in approach to the indigenisation policy. Where Kasukuwere was given to issuing legal instruments and ultimatums, Nhema has quietly engaged industry.
Nhema told The Source in interview that he had requested mining companies to include the empowerment component, not just equity, in their plans in order to fully comply with the law.
“We have agreed on the principles and they are now finalising on it. We didn’t give them a timeline, we said they must go and make proposals though we gave them guidelines,” he said.
Nhema said the miners were expected to include an empowerment element where they outlined how they would be involved in the skills training of women and the youth, support for vocational training, skills transfer and equipping communities with necessary facilities and infrastructure.
He said Zimplats, the country’s biggest mining firm 87 percent controlled by world producer number two Impala Platinum, had now completed paying its $10 million to the Community Share Ownership Trust while Mimosa, which had so far paid $4,5 million, would make an additional payment this month.
The banks had also been asked to submit proposals on how they would achieve the 51 percent.
“We did not give them a timeframe because it also involves the indigenous people whether they will be able to meet their obligation in terms of paying for the capital requirement,” he said.
“The danger of giving timetables is that you may find that the indigenous players are not yet ready to pay the 51 percent.”
He said the indigenous people were required to prove that they had money to buy the 51 percent or to table plans on how they were going to fundraise for the equity.
Nhema said one bank had submitted its plan but was waiting for them to finalise the process before he could reveal the name.
On the reserved services sector, Nhema said new licences would only be issued to indigenous people while those non-indigenous people that already have licences must apply to the ministry indicating time of compliance.