ZISCO scandal: Mugabe blacklists Mittal over Blair links

Arcelormittal, the world's largest steelmaking company, was politically blocked from taking over Zimbabwe's state-owned firm, Ziscosteel, because of its chief executive's friendship with former British prime minister Tony Blair.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and Blair are bitter enemies. Mugabe has described Blair as a "a gay gangster", while Blair labelled Mugabe as on the "eccentric end of the market".

The two last met during the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Durban in November 1999.

Their meeting, at which they tried to fix the sour relationship, broke down in chaos and bitterness. Since then they have only spoken about each other in disparaging terms.

Information obtained by the Sunday Times this week shows that Mugabe and his advisers did not want ArcelorMittal to win the bid to take over Ziscosteel because of CEO Lakshmi Mittal’s friendship with Blair. Mittal is Europe’s richest man and the fifth richest in the world. The steel tycoon has a personal fortune of $28-billion.

"A security check was done on the companies which were bidding for Ziscosteel and it was found that ArcelorMittal’s boss has connections with Blair and for that reason the company was never going to win the bidding process," a senior business executive told the Sunday Times.

"In the first round of bidding it was made clear to government officials by those close to Mugabe that ArcelorMittal was not wanted.

"By the time the company dropped out of the race, it was already politically blacklisted and was not going to win."

Eventually the tender to buy Ziscosteel was won by Mauritian-based Essar Africa Holdings, which is a subsidiary of another Indian steelmaking giant, Essar Group. -Times Live