Zimplats deal: Who is the winner?

The new year has begun with what in terms of the indigenisation drive may be termed a high note, the penning of a nearly US$1 billion dollar deal between the government of Zimbabwe and the world’s largest platinum producer, South Africa’s Impala Platinum (Implats) on the selling of the latter’s 51% stake in Zimbabwe Platinum (Zimplats) to the former as part of a compliance deal.

Candid Comment with Itai Masuku

But before we put down our toast glasses, one would like to ask: who is the real beneficiary of that deal? On the surface, we are told it is the formerly disempowered black community of Zimbabwe.

The question is not based on any in-depth analysis or any inside information, but on that nebulous, vexatious but oft time tested concept called intuition by some, gut feeling by others, or merely a hunch by many.

Those who want to sound sophisticated may call it ESP (extra-sensory perception).

Experience shows whenever you see executives of a multinational corporation and officials of a developing nation such as our little Zimbabwe shaking hands and both parties smiling, the representatives of the multinational have a bigger cause to smile.

Just by way of example, in 1991 a hitherto obscure “chicken bus” operator by the name of Enoch Msabaeka made headlines when he bought a luxury coach service, Express Motorways, from Unifreight International. One recalls the photo of a beaming Msabaeka shaking hands with a Unifreight representative.

Only a few years down the line, things turned awry for the later Mayor of Mutare as the creepy crawlies of the deal began to haunt him. In short, the Express Motorways deal became the death knell of his business empire.

More specifically with mining, cameras flashed in 1997 when Anglo American Corporation of South Africa representatives and Zimbabwean government officials inked a deal in which government bought a 50% stake in the multinational’s flagship, Bindura Nickel Corporation.

Only a few years down the line, the company was teetering on the brink of collapse, the multinational had parachuted and the government was left with a problem baby.

Those familiar with Bindura know about its trials and tribulations. Only a couple years ago, there was yet an opportunity for a photo call when Essar Global and our government penned an agreement on the “rescue” of Ziscosteel. As everyone now knows Essar did not smile; they laughed, and all the way to the bank at that. Now to Zimplats.

The ink is yet to dry on the “landmark” deal and as per our African custom, we are still ululating and cat whistling. As far as one remembers, Zimplats claims used to belong to Mimosa, who sold them to Anglo American Corporation for US$20 million, who then onsold them to Delta Gold for US$40 million, who in turn sold a majority stake in the business to BHP after adding another US$20 million or so.

We are told BHP later sold their lot to South Africa’s Implats for a pittance, saying the resource was not viable. At that time the government, through the National Indigenisation Investment Trust, was offered 10% in the mine but failed to raise the money, US$1 million or so.

Now, just a decade down the line the mine is worth about US$2 billion? Is this an accounting error or a miscalculation of the resource at Ngezi by geologists? Do we have alchemists in the country or have the miracles we’ve been hearing of lately spread to Ngezi? Some answers please.