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Empowerment drive falls flat

Eric Chiriga

GOVERNMENT’S efforts to empower indigenous people by acquiring stakes in large mining concerns have been futile.

>This became clear following revelations that no local entrepreneur has so far managed to successfully acquire a stake in any of the huge mining houses operating in the country.

Zimbabwe Platinum Mines (Zimplats) has been offering a 15% stake valued at about US$31 million to locals but its official empowerment partner, Nkululeko Rusununguko Mining Company (NRMC), is failing to raise the money.

NRMC failed to meet a deadline of February 7 on which it was supposed to pay the US$31 million for the stake.

The deadline had been set by Zimplats shareholders at a meeting held last November.

Prior to this, Zimplats’ grace period on the Australian Stock Exchange where it was expected to complete the 15% placement for the consortium, had expired on January 5.

Zimplats declined to comment.

“Zimplats has no comment. We have nothing to say because there are no developments,” Nina Kwaramba, the spokesperson for Zimplats said last week.

Prisca Mupfumira, chairperson of NRMC, said they were in the process of raising the money and were still the official empowerment partner of Zimplats.

“We were approved by the government and we have a letter to that effect. You should understand that this is a lot of money,” Mupfumira said.

“We will tell you if we fail to raise the money.”

She refused to disclose the amount of money that NRMC had managed to raise out of the required US$31 million.

Mupfumira said she did not know when they would raise the money and conclude the deal.

On the other hand, Anglo American Corporation Zimbabwe (Amzim) is offering a 15 to 20% empowerment stake in its Unki Platinum Mine but which has been pending for more than a year now.

Amzim’s managing director, James Maposa, had not responded to questions sent to him at the time of going to print.

When contacted for comment, the chief executive officer of the Chamber of Mines, David Murangari, said he could not comment on the issue.

“I cannot comment on that issue of empowerment. The only empowerment partner I know is Zimplats’ Nkululeko Rusununguko Mining Company,” Murangari said.

Rio Zim Ltd and Zimasco (Pvt) Ltd are the other major mining concerns in the country.

Rio Zim is one of the few mining concerns which are entirely owned by the locals.

“That issue of empowerment does not apply to us because we are 100%-owned by Zimbabweans,” said Josephat Sachikonye, the managing director of Rio Zim.

The managing director of Zimasco (Pvt) Ltd, Syduuel Jena, could not be reached for comment.

Zimasco mines chrome and holds mining rights in Mutorashanga, Ngezi and Lalapanzi.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, Gideon Gono, says it is imperative that empowerment programmes are visible and transparent.

“A sustainable black economic empowerment (BEE) programme must be guided by non-negotiable principles including equity and accountability,” he said in his monetary policy statement for the fourth quarter of 2004.

He said the feeling among the youths and middle-aged was that BEE programmes are implemented on an ad hoc basis benefiting a few people who are already rich.

“In this regard, it would be expedient to create a framework governing BEEs in all sectors of the economy.”

The mining sector contributes 4,3% to the country’s gross domestic product while the industry accounts for about 40% of the country’s foreign currency earnings.

According to the RBZ monetary policy statement, the sector is estimated to have registered a positive growth of 11,6% in 2004, after a decline of 9,8% in 2003.

The growth in the sector has mainly been driven by gold, palladium, platinum and chrome ore coupled with favourable factors which include the support price and gold purchase points around concentration centres.

Meanwhile, the Mines and Mineral Act which was created to bolster indigenous people’s claims to the lucrative mining sector is undergoing amendments.

The amendments are meant to clarify the government’s economic empowerment policy.

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