By Alex Bell
22 November 2012
South African sugar company Tongaat Hulett is facing even more pressure from the ZANU PF led Empowerment Ministry, which is now reportedly investigating the company’s Zim operations for alleged ‘misrepresentation.’
Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who has led a threatening campaign against international companies that have been slow to give in to the indigenisation exercise, said this week that Tongaat Hulett is being investigated.
“We are investigating Tongaat Hulett because there is a feeling that the company lied about the ownership structure of Hippo Valley and Triangle. This could be a futile attempt to evade indigenisation. Government suspects the company directors deliberately supplied false information and, if this is true, they will definitely go to jail,” Kasukuwere said.
These are not the first threats Kasukuwere has issued to the sugar producing giant, which was given a two week deadline last month to submit its plans to parcel out more than half of its shareholding. Tongaat Hulett’s sugar operations in Zimbabwe comprise the wholly owned Triangle Sugar operation as well as a 50.3% holding in Hippo Valley Estates.
In a letter dated October 23rd and addressed to Triangle, the Ministry of Indigenisation warned that it was losing patience with the sugar company and, “should we not receive a proper compliant plan within the prescribed period, ministry and government would take it that shareholders of Triangle are not interested in continuing to do business in the country.”
Tongaat Hulett has not commented on what it plans to do next, although if it does give in it will join a list of other big name companies who have detailed their 51% share-handover plans.
But economist John Robertson has said that the threats are not helping Zimbabwe, and are instead ensuring that future investors steer clear of the country.
“There is no useful purpose to these threats and these menacing statements. The message it will be sending to other international investors is that Zimbabwe has an extremely hostile investor climate, and they will stay far away,” Robertson warned.