Petulant and hostile Mugabe minister rejects UK investments

Planned investments by British businesses in Zimbabwe will be treated “very negatively”, the minister in charge of plans to enforce black ownership of companies operating in the country said Wednesday.\r\n

“I personally will view any investment from the British very negatively,” Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere told a business forum.

“The same would apply to companies from those countries with negative interests or attitudes against Zimbabwe,” he added.

Kasukuwere said targeted sanctions imposed by Britain and other Western governments on President Robert Mugabe and around 200 members of his inner circle in 2002 had made it almost impossible to do business in Zimbabwe.

Western governments hold a different view.

They say that Mugabe’s populist policies are to blame for the slow strangulation of the economy between 2000 and 2008.

Kasukuwere’s remarks are seen as a sign that the country’s power-sharing government intends pressing ahead with the laws requiring foreign- and white-owned firms to transfer a majority stake in their companies to black Zimbabweans.

The introduction of the nationalist laws earlier this year spooked foreign investors and put the brakes on the fragile recovery begun when Mugabe agreed to share power with former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai after violent elections in 2008.

Britain’s ambassador to Harare Mark Canning said Kasukuwere’s remarks smacked of crude populism and would further alienate investors.

Tsvangirai told an investor conference in South Africa in September that the government would lower the black Zimbabwean ownership quota for capital-intensive businesses, such as mining.

He also assured there would be no expropriations, answering fears that businesses could be taken over by force, as happened with thousands of white-owned farms.

Kasukuwere also said there would be no “grabs”, but insisted the new ownership laws would be enforced.

“Whether you like it or not, nothing will stop this process (indigenisation) from going forward,” he said. – Sapa-dpa