'I'm Zanu's saviour'
Saviour Kasukuwere, the country's firebrand Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister, has vowed to intensify the indigenisation programme.
He also said the programme was giving President Robert Mugabe's beleaguered Zanu-PF party much-needed political mileage in the looming election.
In an interview with the Sunday Times at his Mukwati office in Harare, Kasukuwere said it would be foolhardy for Zanu-PF not to use the indigenisation programme to win votes. "We have changed the country forever with the indigenisation programme. Which political party wouldn't harness such a programme to push for votes? I am not ashamed of that, because indigenisation is the view of my party and it will be a determining force in the next election.
"How is it possible that the people would reject [come election time] a party that empowers them?"
A raft of statements made by Kasukuwere in the past two weeks has had the effect of stoking more fear among already jittery foreign investors in the country. First, Kasukuwere announced that the government had unilaterally taken over a 51% controlling stake in all foreign-owned mines that had not fulfilled the requirements of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.
The announcement was followed this week with media reports quoting Kasukuwere saying he was "pretty certain" to wrap up empowerment transactions entered into with Zimplats and Anglo Platinum by the end of this month. In March, SA's Implats, which owns 87% of Zimplats, was caught up in a bitter wrangle to cede a 51% stake to locals.
He has, however, maintained that he would not pay anything for the Zimplats stake, which economists value at about $600-million.
His overbearing stance, political observers say, has been emboldened by his rising political star, which is fuelled by the indigenisation programme.
What of rumours that he is a contender to succeed Mugabe? At 41,Kasukuwere is the youngest Zanu-PF minister. He ruled out any succession ambitions and said his focus was to work with young people. He said that was what excited him and caused him to have sleepless nights.
WikiLeaks disclosures in 2010 placed Kasukuwere as a frontrunner of the "Young Turks" and "Generation 40" - a cabal of young leaders in Zanu-PF. "All this succession talk is nonsense, the focus must be to work with people," he said.
"I have been given a mandate by President Mugabe to empower the people. I won't waste my energy and time being caught up in succession chatter. It's all just crazy."
Earlier this week, he told a Reuters Africa Investment Conference in Johannesburg that he was quite happy to serve in his capacity as a minister and "I do not have an ambition to go beyond my call of duty right now".
Kasukuwere has not only clashed with foreign-owned mines, which he has repeatedly accused of dragging their feet to avoid adhering to the indigenisation laws, but sharp rhetoric and clashes have also been exchanged with Tendai Biti, the finance minister and Gideon Gono, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor - over hi s next target for indigenisation - the banking sector.
Kasukuwere insisted this week that his recent public spats with Biti and Gono stemmed from the "misinterpretation" of the law by his peers in government.
"The problem is that people are personalising issues. This is not about personal ego and ambition and must never be allowed to be. It's not about what Kasukuwere wants, but about respecting the country's laws and doing what is right.
"Barclays and Standard Chartered Bank have already submitted themselves to the indigenisation programme. How would they have done so if they [Barclays and Standard Chartered] felt they were exempt from the process, as some certain quarters have claimed?" he said.