By Alex Bell
6 March 2013
The Zimplats mining group has been given 30 days to object to the government’s plans to seize about 50% of its land, which was officially announced last Friday.
A notice in the Government Gazette published last Friday said that the government would be taking almost 28,000 hectares of land from Zimplats “for the benefit of the public”. Zimplats said in an announcement to its shareholders that this would constitute “approximately 50% of the operating subsidiary’s mining area,” and that it had 30 days to file an objection.
This Government Gazette follows a statement made last month by Mines Minister Obert Mpofu who said the government had repossessed the land ‘with immediate effect’. At the time, Zimplats had said it knew nothing of such plans, while Mpofu said: “Zimbabwe has not realised significant value from the platinum sector beyond the traditional statutory payments. We can no longer continue having our minerals refined outside the country.”
Zimplats Corporate Affairs officials told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that the company was still looking into the issue, and would not yet be making a statement to the media.
But this takeover of the land is likely to have come as a surprise to Zimplats, so soon after its mother company, Impala Platinum (Implats), reached an agreement to comply with the ZANU PF led indigenisation campaign. Under that agreement (finalised in January), the company will transfer 20% of Zimplats shares to employee and community trusts and 31% to a state-run National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Fund. Implats agreed to sell this majority stake for $971m, by loaning Zimbabwe the money that would be paid back with interest.
But ZANU PF leader Robert Mugabe has said Kasukuwere made a mistake in this agreement, and that the government had no intention of paying Implats for the shares.
“That is the problem, they gave us 51 per cent saying that it is a loan that we are giving you, and we are paying for you in advance and then you can pay us back tomorrow,” Mugabe told the state media, adding: “I think that is where our minister made a mistake. He did not quite understand what was happening, and yet our theory is that the resource is ours and that resource is our share, that is where the 51 per cent comes from.”
Economic analyst Masimba Kuchera said it is likely that the land acquisition order is a now a ‘retaliatory’ move by the government, who have been caught out by ‘agreement’ to pay for the shares.
“I think they are trying to get back at the shoddy deal that was signed. The government is angry that they overlooked it, so this is a way of protecting the indigenisation theme,” Kuchera said.