Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said on Thursday the government would go ahead with the takeover of foreign companies, a scheme that has rattled investors, and told Western countries to stop meddling in his country’s affairs.
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF is at odds with its coalition partner, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, over his plan to force foreign-owned firms, including mines, to transfer at least 51% of their shares to local blacks.
“We proceed with our indigenisation and empowerment policy and programmes must be worked out to ensure that our resources are managed by us, they are controlled and exploited by us and that they benefit the majority of our people,” Mugabe said in a speech during the burial of a top spy.
The unity government of the resource-rich state has sent mixed signals to foreign investors, with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF threatening takeovers and MDC officials painting a rosy picture of an emerging economy where overseas capital will be safe.
The government published regulations last month giving mining companies 45 days to set out their plans for transferring ownership stakes to black Zimbabweans.
Some of the companies affected include the world’s top platinum producers Anglo Platinum and Impala Platinum, and global mining titan Rio Tinto.
Mugabe, 87, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has previously accused foreign companies of working with the West in a plot to remove him from power.
“If our economy is controlled by outsiders, similarly the politics will be controlled by outsiders,” he said.
The West has imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his allies on charges of election rigging and human rights abuses but the veteran leader said this was punishment for his seizure of white-owned commercial farms to redistribute to blacks.
Mugabe, who is pushing for presidential and parliamentary elections this year, two years ahead of schedule, needs cash to help him fund his campaign and arm his soldiers as he tries to defeat the MDC, which has warned the election could lead to a bloodbath.