Zimplats threat is not conducive to a healthy economy
The Times Editorial: The threat posed to South African-owned mining company Zimplats by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's administration needs to be resolved as quickly as possible.
Yesterday, Zimbabwe initially rejected a request by the owners of Zimplats to extend the deadline to hand over about 30% of the company's shares to Mugabe's government. In refusing the request, Zimbabwean Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukwere said Zimplats was expected to comply with the law or be taken over.
But reports from Zimbabwe last night suggested that Kasukwere had extended the deadline again. Reuters quoted the minister as saying that his government had accepted an ''irrevocable offer'' from Impala Platinum to hand over a 29.5% stake in its Zimplats subsidiary.
Zimbabwe has, over the years, watched as its economy took a dive, with investors pulling out as a result of Mugabe's land-grab policies and unending political instability.
The indigenisation programme is likely to add to their economic woes. Though Zimbabwe has every right to enforce its laws and regulations, the manner in which this issue is being handled, and the language being used, will harden attitudes and destroy - not create - an environment conducive to attracting businesses to that country.
Zimbabwe should respect the bilateral investment and trade agreements it has with South Africa. Pretoria should, while negotiating with Mugabe to keep South African business interests protected, take note of the frustrations developing in the region and the hardening of attitudes against firms that fail to invest in communities in which they operate.
Even here at home, calls to nationalise mines and other strategic industries are growing.
We should not wait for the situation to deteriorate and end up adopting strong-arm tactics to enforce policies.
As long as communities don't see the benefits, Mugabe will be a hero to the marginalised and dispossessed.