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Mugabe urges firms to comply with equity law

HARARE, Sept 7 – President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday urged foreign companies to comply with a looming deadline to submit their plans for selling majority stakes to black Zimbabweans under a controversial equity law.

Foreign firms have until September 25 to present their plans to government on how they will comply with the law that requires them to sell 51 percent stakes to locals.

Mugabe insisted that foreign investments in the county would be safe, if they meet the new requirements.

“As the implementation of the indigenisation and empowerment policy continues to gather momentum, government looks forward to full cooperation by all stakeholders to achieve a win-win outcome,” Mugabe said as he opened a new session of parliament.

“I wish to assure investors that their investments in the country remain safe and urge them to comply with the country’s laws.”

Mines and banks are the main target of the law, but Finance Minister Tendai Biti said two weeks ago that the rules could be relaxed for banks.

But the minister for indigenisation, Saviour Kasukuwere, has singled out several major companies including platinum giant Zimplats, accusing them of dragging their feet in complying with the law.

“Zimplats continues to defy the laws of this land, continues to abuse the process,” he said.

Kasukuwere said the government had met with representatives of Zimplats to try to come to an agreement.

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“We have tried to engage them in a manner that achieves broad objectives of a win-win situation,” he said.

“We would like to let Zimplats continue mining in this country, but if they continue to disregard laws of this country, we are left with no option (but) to proceed in terms of law with regards to the company.”

The equity law is strongly supported by 87-year-old Mugabe but has created tensions within Zimbabwe’s rocky unity government, with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai arguing that it will discourage investment.

The new session of parliament is expected to debate a new law governing diamond mines. Exports of the gems have been restricted since 2009 over concerns about rights abuses in diamond fields.

Lawmakers also must approve a law to govern the holding of a referendum on a new constitution, a key step toward new elections under Zimbabwe’s three-year-old unity accord.

Mugabe, whose ZANU-PF party was blamed for most of the deadly violence that undermined Zimbabwe’s last elections in 2008, called for peace as the country moves toward new polls.

“As we forge ahead, let us continue to exert our energy in fostering unity, peace, development and equality of opportunity of all our people,” he said.

“Let us therefore in unison say no to violence in all its manifestations.

Mugabe has already been endorsed as his party’s candidate in the new elections, likely to again pit him against Tsvangirai in polls expected next year.

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