Firm takeovers to go ahead: Mugabe

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by Tobias Manyuchi, Friday 15 April 2011

HARARE – President Robert Mugabe on Thursday vowed to press ahead with a controversial scheme to force foreign-owned firms to sell controlling stake to local blacks that has rattled investors and split his unity government with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Addressing mourners at the burial of a top ally who died earlier in the week, a defiant Mugabe said the empowerment plan was to ensure indigenous Zimbabweans control the economy, while calling on the West home to stop meddling in the southern African country’s affairs.

Western countries home to nearly all of the corporations that will be forced to sell stake to local Zimbabweans have criticised the economic indigenisation programme that they say could compromises property rights including bilateral investment protection treaties signed with Harare.

"We proceed with our indigenisation and empowerment policy and programmes must be worked out to ensure that our resources are managed by us, they are controlled and exploited by us and that they benefit the majority of our people," said Mugabe, addressing people gathered for the burial of the deputy director of Zimbabwe’s secret service Menard Muzariri who died Tuesday.

He urged Zimbabweans to seize control of the economy to end the hold that the West has enjoyed over the country through the various European and American corporations that dominate the economy.

"If our economy is controlled by outsiders, similarly the politics will be controlled by outsiders," said Mugabe.

Zimbabwe’s mainstay mining sector was two weeks ago thrown into turmoil when the government announced it was beginning its empowerment programme with the mining sector, giving foreign-owned mining companies 45 days to submit details of how they plan to transfer 51 percent stakes to locals by next September.

The government threatened to prosecute all firms that fail to disclose their share-transfer plans within the stipulated period, as analysts warned the empowerment programme could scare away badly needed foreign investors to damage the nascent economic recovery.

The empowerment plans are being pushed by Mugabe’s wing of the coalition government and opposed by Tsvangirai’s MDC party that favours a gradual approach, fearing that wholesale indigenisation could wreck a fragile economy.

The International Monetary Fund warned earlier this month that the empowerment programme could damage Zimbabwe’s impressive but still fragile economic recovery after a decade of acute recession. – ZimOnline