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.