The insurance giant was reacting to a call to shed its investment in the Zimbabwean company that prints the Mugabe government’s propaganda mouthpiece, the Herald newspaper
“Our investments are made for the benefit of our policyholders, meant to meet needs and expectations in terms of return and not contingent upon political consideration,” OM Zimbabwe group chief executive Luke Ngwerume said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Disinvestment from major assets would ultimately have adverse consequences for our policyholders.” The call was issued on Wednesday by Passop, a Cape Town-based refugee rights organisation, which claimed Old Mutual was the second-largest shareholder in Zimbabwe Newspapers Ltd and was “thus guilty of directly supporting the Mugabe regime”.
Passop said the Herald and its sister papers were among the ruling Zanu-PF’s most vital tools “for retaining its place as one of the most infamously corrupt and brutal governments of the last decade”.
“Their investment… is a pact with the devil. Did they invest in Nazi Germany too?” However, Ngwerume said OM Zimbabwe was managing the savings of more than a million Zimbabweans, “a responsibility which we take very seriously”.
The option for investing customer funds were limited by legal requirements such as exchange controls, which precluded investment in foreign assets.
Printing company Natprint printed not only the Herald, but a number of other newspapers, too.
“It is just one of a number of assets in the Zimpapers Group, in which we are invested, and represents our exposure to the very limited print and media industry.
“Zimpapers is the only substantial print and media asset that is available to policyholders in terms of exposure to that sector.” He said OM understood Passop’s concerns and shared its desire to look after the interest of ordinary Zimbabweans.
“We have always been open to conversation and would welcome engagement from any concerned stakeholders,” he said.