Dark forces snatch mineral rights fronting rogue businessman Billy Rautenbach

ZIMBABWE’s inability to attract foreign investment has forced the government to withdraw contentious amendments to a mining bill that would have halved private ownership, so says the official line from government souces.

For weeks, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been re-assuring investors that planned legislation that would allow the government to take more than 51% ownership of foreign-owned mines would not go ahead.

Zimbabwe has about 600 mines and many of them are badly in need of massive capital investment.

Announcing the withdrawal of the amendments to the mining bill, Thankful Musukutwa, the mines and mining development permanent secretary, said: “There has been realisation that, in its present form, the bill would not be able to attract meaningful investment.”

Robert Mugabe promised that the government would acquire 51% of all mines and give half its stake to ordinary citizens. But bad policies and unreliable electricity have reduced mining outputs to record lows of below 10%.

Meanwhile a British Channel 4 television progamme Dispatches last night highlighted how Robert Mugabe and politicians in his ZANU-PF party are still clinging on to power in Zimbabwe, focusing on the businessmen who are benefiting from or supporting his campaign of political violence.

According to opposition politicians in Zimbabwe, those businessmen include well-known figures like Billy Rautenbach and companies based in the City of London.

The Finance Minister Tendai Biti who was interviewed by Channel 4 television and he is on record saying he was going to overhaul the country mineral laws received a live bullet in the post and his top aide, Nqobizitha Mlilo’s mother was beaten and left for dead by assailants beleived to be Emmerson Mnangagwa’s thugs.  

Following last year’s disputed elections and political violence, a power-sharing ‘National Unity Government’ was established in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe remains as President, with the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai , Prime Minister. Tsvangirai has been touring the world trying to get aid to Zimbabwe to help its hungry people and restart its decaying economy.

However, working undercover in Zimbabwe, Dispatches reporter Aidan Hartley discovers that Mugabe has maintained his grip on the police, army and central bank, enabling him and his allies to continue carrying out violence and corruption on a vast scale.

Zimbabwe Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and long time business partner Billy Rautenbach are alleged to be very much involved in the country’s latest biggest platinum mine construction by a British based mining company Central African Mining & Exploration Co (Camec’s).

Well placed sources said that Zanu PF dark forces influenced the withdrawal of the mining bill to under the influence of their secretive International business partners who are set to launch the Bokai Platinum mine construction in the next 6 weeks.

The Zimbabwean businessman, and longtime Zanu PF financier Billy Rautenbach is subject to an arrest warrant in South Africa; is persona non grata in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); and is on EU and US blacklists for his alleged links with Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe.

It is believed that the country’s second strongest man after Robert Mugabe, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, a long time business partner of the Rautenbach family has a major political role in the latest project.

Billy Rautenbach was introduced to Emmerson Mnangagwa by Ken Flower, the founder Rhodesian Central Intelligency Organisation, the notorious State spy agent, CIO 30 years ago.

Ken Flower went on to work for Robert Mugabe after independence after as Director-General of the spy agency and Emmerson Mnangagwa was his boss as the first Minister of State Security.

In July 2007 controversial businessman Billy Rautenbach was arrested in the Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and subsequently deported to Zimbabwe.

Rautenbach, used to be a major shareholder in Aim-listed Central African Mining and Exploration (Camec), which owns copper mining properties in the DRC, was apprehended after the company had held a press briefing contesting the validity of the persona non grata order and claiming that he had entered the DRC despite it.

After authorities discovered that Rautenbach had entered the country, he was detained by the Katanga provincial authorities and deported the following day.

Emmerson Mnangagwa’s name was even mentioned by a United Nations report on DRC blood diamonds during the Great Lakes wars. He is also in firm control of the Zimbabwe Defence Industries, a Company which trades in military weapons, exporting them to Africa and other Asian black spots.

Rautenbach, exchanged his assets in the DRC for a minority stake in Camec and cash, “is still the key guy in Camec’s Congo operations”, one well-placed source in the cobalt market said.

Ultimately he is in charge of marketing cobalt concentrates from its Mukondo Mountain mine, according to a trading source. Camec had been selling material to Glencore and Camec’s Chinese offtake partner Zhejiang Galico Cobalt & Nickel Material Co (Galico) until the first quarter of last year, but all its marketing is now…

The construction of a mine is expected to start this year, Africa-focused emerging mining company Central African Mining & Exploration Company (Camec) said on Thursday. 

"Mr Rautenbach had amassed a large number of mineral and other assets in the DRC during the civil war and subsequently," sources said. 

Camec, which is chaired by former England cricket player Philippe Edmonds, was once engaged in a hostile bid for fellow DRC-focused copper firm Katanga Mining.

A bankable feasibility study at the Bokai platinum prospect, in Zimbabwe, would be completed by September.

This followed on an initial feasibility study, which revealed an indicated and inferred mineral resource containing 10,69-million ounces of 4E (platinum, palladium, rhodium and gold).

“These results confirm a significant resource at Bokai and demonstrate the considerable potential for economic recovery of this platinum resource.

We expect to bring Bokai into production by 2012, with construction on the mine likely to begin this year,” commented Camec CEO Andrew Groves.

The London-listed miner expected the stage one reserves to support the production of 163 000 oz/y of platinum-group metals (PGMs) in concentrate form over a 20-year life-of-mine.

The stage two development would likely double the PGMs production, it added in a statement.

The company noted that it had already completed the underground mining layouts, equipment section, production schedules and the PGMs concentrator and supporting mine infrastructure designs.

The prospect is owned by Todal Mining, which is 60% owned by London-listed Camec and 40% by the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.

In another development, an US$800-million coal mine deal, which has been on the cards for years, is set to take off, following the signing of a deal between the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) and Billy Rautenbach’s Clidder Minerals.

It involves the construction of a coal mine in the Hwange western coalfield, owned by Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), a power-generating subsidiary of Zesa, and two power units at Hwange power station.

Zesa, through ZPC, will hold a “yet to be disclosed but minority shareholding” in the venture. Clidder, an investment vehicle owned by businessperson Billy Rautenbach, will be the majority equity holder.

“Billy [Rautenbach] will have the majority stake in the joint venture and government, through Zesa, will be the minority shareholder,” says a source.

Currently, Clidder Minerals mines coal at Hwange colliery under a contract.

Zesa CEO Ben Rafemoyo has declined to comment on the latest developments.

(Additional reporting from)