Mugabe investment

mugabe_meetingMUTARE - The British business community in Zimbabwe has been thrown into turmoil after President Mugabe (pictured) said that all "400 British companies" in the country could be totally nationalised if European sanctions were not removed.

Political analysts say there is no more than 100 British companies still operating in Zimbabwe. “I have said to some of the leaders we have been too good , far too good for malicious people, for countries that seek to destroy us,” Mugabe thundered to thousands of his supporters at an annual conference of his Zanu PF party in the eastern city of Mutare Friday. “Why should we continue to have 400 British companies here operating freely, pretty benefitting from them? Why

should we continue to have companies and organisations that are supported by America by Britain operating freely in our country without us hitting them back,” Mugabe said amid defeaning applause.

“Time has come for us to revenge,” he added amid cacophonous whistles and cheers. President Mugabe’s sudden decision to armtwist the Europeans to remove European and American sanctions with threats to redress Zimbabwe’s

“colonial legacy” by seizing British-owned mining and manufacturing interests provoked fears that the move could have disastrous consequences for the nascent economic wellbeing of the recovering Zimbabwean economy.

A senior Western diplomat described the threat against British interests as “posturing” before next year’s elections, which Mugabe has told his party faithful here that its going ahead as planned despite MDC remonstrations. The MDC has said it wants presidential elections only, but Mugabe told his supporters here presidential, legislative, and local government polls will be held simultaneously mid next year. The diplomat warned that if Mugabe’s threats were carried out it would “risk bankrupting the country”.

Industry leaders said that the move could push the country’s recovering economy, mainly from increasing export earnings from tobacco sales, into economic freefall.

“It escalates the whole conflict on to a completely different level,” one commentator said. “President Mugabe is refighting the war of national liberation all over again. He wants the land, the mines and the businesses. He hasn’t used language like that since Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980. Only the churches will be left.”

Complaining that he had only two cheeks and he has followed the Bible as a Catholic and offered both cheeks after being slapped by Britain, he said it was time to go for the former colonial power’s economic interests here. Mugabe told his 11th National People’s Conference at Maymount Tecachers College beamed live on State TV that Zimbabweans have been too nice to Britons’ interests here. President Mugabe said that the time had come for “our young people to be in there as owners not just as workers”. Zimbabwe’s platinum, gold, copper, and iron mines faced seizure or aggressive “indigenisation”. Diamond mining has already been nationalised.

There are fears that the masses may respond enthusiastically to Mugabe’s call. Some of the world’s great mining houses, including Anglo-American, Rio Tinto and Lonmin, are among the foreign multinational corporations with extensive mining interests in Zimbabwe. However, they represent only a handful of the British-owned or affiliated companies facing the

threat of nationalisation, involving household names such as Unilever, Barclays Bank, Dunlop, Costains and Taylor Woodrow, with a market value estimated in excess of several hundred million pounds.

“Time has come to take what’s ours,” Mugabe said, pounding the podium. “One way of being very thrustful in our posture is for us to use the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act. That Act gives us the authority to take over ma Companies. We can begin with that fifty one percent . But in some cases we must read the Riot Act to the British and the others and say to them ‘this is only fifty one percent we have taken, unless you remove sanctions we will go 100 percent’,” he said amid applause.

“Thats reading the Riot Act. If they insist the sanctions must remain, then of course we must take over these companies. And that includes mind you companies that are mining gold, mining other minerals platinum, etcetera and some of them have been here for years, years even before I was born. And we cannot allow them to be fooling us.”

Mugabe said Zimbabwe had trained degreed professionals, engineers and young people with technical expertise to run the British companies, and he claimed it was the locals running the firms anyway.

Zimbabwe’s mining industry, which accounts for approximately 4 per cent of gross domestic product and 30 per cent of annual export earnings, is also responsible for nearly 50,000 jobs in a country in which unemployment has risen to 80 per cent. Many of these jobs, along with the tens of thousands of jobs in the manufacturing sector, would be put at risk if the Government went ahead with its threats.

Mugabe said Europeans were lying that the sanctions were targeted, saying they were general sanctions and have hit targeted companies hard. He said the Europeans are now refusing to sell spares for machines they sold to Zimbabwe, and the result has been foreclosures and increasing joblessness. He said God had intervened and helped Zanu PF to fight sanctions.

“God looks out for his people,” Mugabe said smiling cynically. “We didn’t have diamonds, they have been found in Marange, here in Manicaland in the east. You have looked East. In your country if you look East, you are looking in Manicaland. So here you are. And it’s not here alone, in other areas also, more gold, more platinum in other areas. We will announce this. Its giving us strength to defeat sanctions. We have found capacity to readjust our industries,” he said. Political cmmentators have said Mugabe’s talk consolidates the hostile rhetoric towards the international investment community and

further undermines Zimbabwe’s prospects of economic recovery and any further direct foreign investment. “Its is an act of gross irresponsibility,” he said.

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