Our resources are not negotiable: President

President Mugabe

President Mugabe

From Mabasa Sasa in TSHWANE
ZIMBABWE’S indigenisation and economic empowerment policy and laws are generous to foreign investors and will not be compromised to suit the interests of capital over the national interest, President Mugabe has said.The President said this in Tshwane yesterday after he and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma finalised three key agreements and two memoranda of understanding designed to enhance bilateral relations.

The Sadc and African Union Chair added that Zimbabwe welcomed partnerships with foreign firms, and that its flexibility in negotiating ownership arrangements within the context of joint ventures with Southern African countries would not be done at the expense of getting unfair value from its natural resources.

President Mugabe, who is on a State visit at the invitation of his South African counterpart, was responding to a question from a journalist who wanted to know if the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act would be tweaked to accommodate concerns raised by some South African firms that have interests in Zimbabwe.

“What we say, therefore, is we who are owners of natural resources must at least have 51 percent of the earnings of that company and we allow that company 49 percent where it’s a natural  resource.

“If the resources are brought from outside; you bring your gadgets, you want to manufacture gadgets which we did not have before, well that’s not covered in our 51-49 percent. That’s negotiated.

“But where it’s our natural resources no we must at least have 51 percent of the resources, which is quite generous mind you, because it’s 49 percent. You take 49 percent every year of 500 million, 49 percent of a billion. It’s a huge amount.”

President Mugabe went on: “The capital that is aimed at mining, for example, is draining from my country resources that cannot be replaced tomorrow, leaving holes in my country.”

As such, he said, capital could not be said to be more important than the resource it sought to exploit.

“In Africa natural resources belong to us, we are owners of these resources. I don’t believe – and I have done economics – I don’t believe that capital is of greater value than the natural resources I have.

“So when a company comes and says it has capital to invest, it’s bringing equipment . . . the capital that is aimed at mining for example is drawing from my country a resource that cannot be replaced tomorrow, you are leaving holes in my country and you want to say the capital is more valuable.

“Your machine is more valuable than the gold that you are taking? That’s bad economics . . . God-given gold is much more beneficial and important to my country.”

Even then, he said, the close ties among Sadc members meant that governments could still negotiate to have 50-50 joint ventures. The President said the law and regulations also allowed flexibility on non-extractive sectors.

Earlier in the day, President Mugabe’s spokesperson, Mr George Charamba, had said Zimbabwe would not seek to influence other countries to mimic its policies, saying each nation must find its own way of empowering the indigenous citizenry in a manner applicable to its situation.

This was in response to South African journalists who wanted to know if Harare felt its neighbour should take the Zimbabwe empowerment route in the face of growing anger about widening inequality 21 years after the end of apartheid.