Mugabe attack on Zimplats rattles industry

zimplatsMHONDORO - President Robert Mugabe has baffled both supporters and observers with a scathing attack on Zimplats, claiming the platinum giant was socially irresponsible and declaring that its top managers were enemies of Zanu (PF).

The attack, barely two months after Mugabe praised Zimplatss programmes at the 71st annual congress of the Chamber of Mines in Victoria Falls, left many to speculate that the Zanu (PF) leader was looking for soft targets in his desperate attempt to woo rural voters for crucial elections expected next year.

Mugabe was addressing villagers and party leaders from Mashonaland West when he pounced on Zimplats during the opening of a clinic at St Michaels Mission in Mhondoro.

Several times he called out the name of Zimplats chief executive officer, Alex Mhembere, apparently intending to give him a talking to about his companys activities. When Mhembere did not respond, Mugabe dismissed him as small fish being used by foreigners to exploit local blacks.

Some managers at Zimplats think that Zanu (PF) is not good. I have to tell you Mhembere, if you are here, that Zimplats is not ploughing back its profits to the community, Mugabe said.

The speech labelling foreign-owned companies as enemies was seen as possibly preparing the ground for a Zanu takeover. Shortly before his supporters went on a rampage invading commercial farms in 2000, Mugabe had declared white farmers enemies of the state.

They (foreign mining companies) have been invited to operate in Zimbabwe. If I invite someone to my house, they must eat what they have been given and not go into my granary as well, Mugabe said in Mhondoro.

Zimplats is 87.5 per cent owned by the South African Implats, which was heavily criticised for investing in Zimbabwe when most other foreign companies pulled out in the mid-2000s. More recently, Zimplats announced it was going ahead with a $485 million expansion programme in Zimbabwe, despite the publication of indigenisation regulations that have alarmed other foreign investors.

According to the companys website, the new expansion programme will include building two new schools, upgrading two others and building a referral hospital at Ngezi to serve satellite clinics.

Previously, the company has embarked on projects to build roads, houses and a new town for the Ngezi community, leading many to question the motive behind Mugabes attack.

Some believe a recent visit to Zimplatss Ngezi mine by Julius Malema, the South African ANC youth league leader described as “misguided” by Botswanas president Ian Khama, may provide some answers.

Following his April visit to Zimbabwe, where he met his hero Mugabe, Malema visited Implats installations in South Africa, threatening to nationalise them. He was publicly rebuked by President Jacob Zuma, who said nationalisation of mines was not, at present, on the ANC or government agenda.

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