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Government piles pressue on Tongaat

The NATIONAL Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB), a government department in charge of ensuring companies comply with the Indigenisation Act, has failed to pressure South African Tongaat Hullet (Tongaat)’s local operation, Hippo Valley Estates (Hippo), and Bikita Minerals into compliance with indigenisation laws, it has emerged.

Taurai Mangudhla

Tongaat and Bikita Minerals where singled out for dodging compliance with the policy by Parliament’s portfolio committee on indigenisation members, amid concern the two companies had political protection from high offices in government.

The South African-owned sugar producer was supposed to submit an acceptable indigenisation plan that will see the company relinquishing majority shareholding to Zimbabweans, but the company is yet to meet government expectations with protracted negotiations yet to be concluded since former Indigenisation minister Savior Kasukuwere’s tenure.

NIIEB was established to advise government’s indigenisation and economic empowerment strategies, advise on appropriate measures for the implementation of the objectives of the Act, to administer the indigenisation fund in terms as well as oversee compliance with the policy.

Asked for an update on the implementation of the law at the sugar firm and Bikita , NIIEB CEO Wilson Gwatiringa said the board had escalated the matter to higher offices after a series of fruitless attempt to finalise the deal.

“We tried to engage them which we did when we found out these companies were taking time to do what they are supposed to do. We then reported the issue further high so that it can be tackled at a higher level to try and make sure these companies play ball and comply with the laws of the country,” he told the Parliamentary committee.

“The engagement continues at a much higher level to make sure we have results.”

Early last year, Tongaat clashed with Kasukuwere over compliance amid indications the firm was dodging the country’s empowerment laws until the matter was escalated to President Robert Mugabe’s office which called for immediate establishment of a community share scheme as part of the sugar producers’ compliance.

Tongaat had turned down government’s directive for a launch of a community share ownership trust in Masvingo, saying it could not be part of an initiative to which it is opposed. The company was said to have refused to fund the launch celebrations.

Initially, government had pushed for the CST launch in the first week of November 2012, but the company resisted.

Currently, Tongaat is at the centre of a land dispute with Zanu PF after the party proposed to grab 10 000 hectares of land from the sugar producer for resettlement purposes.

Masvingo’s political leadership recently wrote to government seeking the nod to acquire more land for resettlement purposes , but insiders say the proposal is facing stiff resistance from some politburo members.

Masvingo provincial affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, who chairs the provincial land committee in Masvingo, confirmed he had applied for the 10 000 ha of land on behalf of the province.

Bhasikiti said the land currently in question is state land.

The proposal, however, faced stiff opposition from some Zanu PF politburo members.

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