Mugabe launches community mining scheme


PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe praised the country’s first community mining  project  Thursday, under new laws that give mining rights to communities  around the  notorious Marange diamond fields.

Zimbabwe’s indigenisation laws require foreign companies to cede 51  percent  of their shares to local blacks, in an attempt to reverse the  inequalities  caused by the country’s colonial past.

“The Marange community trust is unique in that it will own mining   rights rather than hold equity in the four companies (operating in   Marange),” Mugabe said at the unveiling of the scheme.

The Marange fields have been at the centre of a years-long  controversy over  alleged army abuses, and the Kimberley Process global  watchdog suspended  exports there.

The ban was lifted last year, allowing two companies to start  exporting  stones, a decision supported by China and India but opposed  by Western nations,  rights groups and the industry.

Mbada Diamonds, Marange Resources, Anjin, Sino-Zimbabwe and the  Diamond  Mining Company each gave US$10 million to the Marange-Zimunya  Community Share  Ownership Trust.

Mugabe handed over US$1,5 million for opening of an account for the  Trust  and about US$500 000 for the Manicaland Province Youth Fund,  which primarily  targets youths in Nyanga for their potato growing  projects.

The Zanu PF leader said the country’s indigenisation programme would  seek to  transfer complete control of country’s economy to locals,  insisting the current  empowerment thresholds were not adequate.

Currently foreign companies are not allowed to own more than 49  percent of  their Zimbabwe operations but Mugabe said the threshold  would be revised  upwards.

“We do not want the 51-49 percent ownership. We want total control;  we  need to translate our political sovereignty into economic  independence,”  he said.

“Our indigenisation programme is one such deliberate intervention  that  seeks to empower previously disadvantaged Zimbabweans,” he added.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC-T party have criticised  the  law, saying it will drive away foreign investment, just as the  country is  recovering from a decade-long economic collapse.



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