South Africa Vs. Britain: Battle for Zimbabwean platinum gets ugly
An international incident is quietly forming up over Bokai, one of the world's choicest platinum properties, in an increasingly fiendish battle between London-listed Camec, and Kameni, a shadowy unlisted South Africa-based entity.
Who’s telling the truth in the battle for Bokai by Camec vs Kameni?
Camec, Central African Mining & Exploration Company Plc, announced on April 11 2008 that it had acquired 60% of Todal, which owns the Bougai and Kironde concessions near Gweru, Zimbabwe
For its 60% in Todal, Camec paid $5m in cash, and issued 215m of its shares, worth about £100m at the time. Camec also loaned $100m to Todal’s parent company in order to facilitate the start up of building a mine at the concessions. For these efforts, Camec learned later in 2008 that ownership of the Bougai concession was being hawked around by Kameni, in an effort, apparently successful, to raise hundreds of millions of rands (among other currencies) from investors.
As 2008 wore on, Kameni started to widely advertise that it controlled Bokai. In marketing materials, Kameni claims that its subsidiary Mid-Ma Platinum (74.9% held by Pomachan, a 100% subsidiary of Kameni) holds Bokai. In December, with the global platinum sector in absolute crisis, Kameni announced plans to raise R6.5bn (about $630m) on the Johannesburg bourse, by mid-2010, "the funds being intended to build platinum and chrome mines in South Africa and Zimbabwe".
On March 5 2009, Kameni further announced that "it had raised R300m- its minimum capital raising requirement -to fund its exploration programme in South Africa and Zimbabwe". Kameni advised further that its "two major assets – the near-surface PGM [platinum group metal] Kalkfontein Project in South Africa and the surface PGM and chrome Bougai Project in Zimbabwe – lend themselves to rapid exploration, development and cash-generating mining".
For days and weeks and months, Kameni’s executives and/or directors have persistently declined requests for any interview to explain Kameni’s claims to Bougai, but have instead supplied limited and incomplete answers via "strategic communication" entity Russell and Associates in Johannesburg. On July 16 2009, a James Duncan of Russell and Associates stated: "At the time the seed capital raising took place, there was no dispute regarding rights to the Bougai claims".
It was on February 19, while the seed raisings were taking place, that Walter Shamu, MD of Todal, wrote Stephen Gorven, CEO of Kameni.
Shamu pointed out in no uncertain terms that Kameni’s "marketing materials" referring to Kameni’s "Bougai" project apparently pointed to an "overlap with existing Todal claims". Shamu urgently requested a meeting to resolve the issues.
With a full blown dispute in the background, Kameni’s seed raising continued. The battle had been brewing for months. More than two months previously, on December 5 2008, Shamu wrote the mining commissioner, Gweru, expressing alarm that Kameni’s Mid-Ma was apparently claiming rights "over mining claims already granted to Todal".
Duncan states that "Kameni had – and still has – documentary proof of its rights to the claims from the appropriate authority including original certificates of registration and letters of confirmation of their validity from the Zimbabwean Mines Department", but has not supplied copies of such materials, or anything else. With Duncan clearly suggesting that Bougai has been sold twice, he also states that: "as we have said to you at least twice now, the matter has been referred back to the appropriate authority, the Zimbabwean Ministry of Mines, for clarification and Kameni is confident of an outcome in its favour".
Again, Kameni has not supplied proof of such a process. Nothing that Duncan states checks out. Information available – of which there is no real shortage – indicates that Kameni’s "claims" in Zimbabwe – Bougai is not the only one – have been annulled and repudiated by the relevant authorities.
Dominique Mabayiwa, CEO of the Zimbabwe Minerals Development Corporation (ZMDC), which owns the balance of 40% in Todal, mentions the word "motive" when asked about Kameni’s conduct. He also speaks for the Zimbabwe government, given the ZMDC’s status as a parastatal.
Duncan states that "from the outset, Kameni has and continues to act in terms of the best legal advice in both South Africa and Zimbabwe", but, again, provides no details, evidence or anything else that would throw light onto Kameni’s bizarre and twisted trail. For now, investors who ploughed hundreds of millions of rands into Kameni will simply have to sit on the edge of their seats.
Meanwhile, in a dramatic turn, new South African government has thrown its full weight behind Robert Mugabe the Southern African Development Community’s call for the lifting of all sanctions against Zimbabwe against the Movement for Democratic Change.
Responding to questions in Parliament today, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said South Africa supported the SADC decision.
"So, yes, our government has added its voice in calling for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe," he said.
"It is our belief that the continued imposition of sanctions against Zimbabwe as well as its isolation weakens its ability to establish itself on a path of economic recovery and political stability."
Kenneth Meshoe, the leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, said he could not understand how South Africa could bolster Mugabe’s regime.
"SADC as a region has failed the people of Zimbabwe by focusing on protecting and defending President Mugabe rather than demanding that he respect the rule of law, justice, democracy and human rights in his country," he said.
Motlanthe said, however, that South Africa’s position was driven by a desire to help Zimbabwe to recover.
"This call for the lifting of sanctions is not aimed at protecting and defending President Mugabe as an individual. It is meant to attract the necessary investment into Zimbabwe so that their economic recovery plan can take effect. It is not helpful to devote all of our efforts to dealing with him as an individual.
"The truth is that problems are never solved by making wars. This is an illusion. We know that those who are militarily superior always delude themselves into believing that it is possible through military invasion to solve problems. The SADC view is that only dialogue solves problems," he said.
This week’s SADC summit dodged discussion on the implementation of Zimbabwe’s peace pact, but said it would call a special meeting to review the cooperation between Mugabe and the opposition leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. (Additional Reporting by Mineweb)