August 20, 2011

Zimbabwe gives firms ultimatum / Mugabe appoints anti-corruption team

Zimbabwe's central bank chief has warned on threats to foreign banks after state media said 13 firms had two weeks to submit plans for selling majority shares to locals or face losing permits. The Herald said the firms, including Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered, had two weeks to submit acceptable indigenisation plans or risk losing their licenses with the government taking over ownership. “There are ways of achieving the same objectives as intended by the law through non-confrontational means and not in a manner of dishing out threats to sensitive institutions that are custodians of people's hard-earned savings,” responded Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono in a statement. “This is necessary in order to avoid fly-by-night, reckless and excitable flexing of muscles and decisions that overlook certain fundamentals that could irreparably harm the nerve centre of our recovering economy.”

The Herald reported that indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere had given the companies a two-week ultimatum to submit plans on how they intended to meet the 51 percent direct equity participation by locals within five years. The two banks, six mining companies and five other firms had “been given a two-week ultimatum to submit acceptable indigenisation plans or risk losing their licences with the Government taking over ownership”, the paper said. Other affected companies included platinum miner Zimplats and British American Tobacco which received letters dated July 28 signed by Kasukuwere, and officials told the newspaper no responses had yet been received. “If the companies fail to rectify their non-compliance, the minister is empowered under the indigenisation act to institute proceedings to cancel their licenses,” The Herald reported. But Gono assured foreign banks that the central bank had not issued notices to revoke their licences. “The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe... wishes to advise all stakeholders that it has neither given notice nor does it have an immediate or foreseeable intention to withdraw operating licences.”

A new indigenisation law requires all foreign firms to sell 51 percent stakes to black Zimbabweans, with companies given up to September 25 to submit proposals on how they plan to comply. The new law is strongly supported by veteran President Mugabe but has created tensions within the unity government, with Prime Minister Tsvangirai arguing that it will discourage investment. Mugabe had defended the regulations as a measure to correct the economic imbalances created by Zimbabwe's colonial past.
Foreign mines operating in the country include London-listed Aquarius Platinum, Australian-listed Zimbabwe Platinum Mines, Anglo Platinum and Rio Tinto.

In the meantime, President Mugabe has appointed a nine-member Anti-Corruption Commission to stem out corruption in the country. Denford Chirindo, who previously worked in the ministries of defence and justice and legal affairs, would chair the commission. He also worked with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe as a senior logistics administrator from February 2006 to January this year. Chirindo's deputy would be policy consultant Teresa Mugadza. She previously worked at the Women in Politics Support Network. The other members are Goodwill Shana, Zivanai Rusike, Anna Chitsike, Emmanuel Chimwanda, Shepherd Gwasira, Elita Sakupwanya and Lakayana Duve.

In a statement, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda said the appointments were done in consultation with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara in line with the constitution of Zimbabwe and provisions of the Global Political Agreement. “All the members appointed to the commission are persons of integrity chosen for their knowledge of and experience in administration or the prosecution or investigation of crime and/or for their suitability for appointment,” Sibanda said. (Sapa/The Zimbabwean)

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