PRETORIA (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday defended his government’s drive to take majority control of foreign-owned companies, saying investors must pay for exploiting Africa’s mineral wealth.

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In his first state visit to neighbouring South Africa in two decades, Mugabe was also defiant on Zimbabwe’s seizure of white owned commercial farms for redistribution to blacks.

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Land is also an emotive issue in South Africa, where most of it remains in white hands since apartheid ended two decades ago despite the ruling party’s efforts at redistribution.

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The veteran leader, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has approved a law obliging foreign-owned firms, including mines, to sell at least 51 percent of ownership to black Zimbabweans.

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“The capital that is aimed at mining for example, is drawing from my country a resource that cannot be replaced tomorrow, leaving holes in my country,” Mugabe told reporters after trade talks with South African President Zuma.

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“What we say therefore is we, who are owners of natural resources, must have at least have 51 percent of the earnings of that company and we allow the company 49 percent.”

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Western countries have withheld financial aid to Harare in protest over Mugabe’s policies and charges he has rigged elections to stay in power, worsening an economic crisis that has driven millions of Zimbabweans to South Africa for jobs.

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