Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Trusts set up for empowerment

Deputy Business Editor Fanuel Kangondo GOVERNMENT is engaging community leaders around the country on the setting up of trusts to form part of the process for broad-based indigenous empowerment, two Cabinet ministers have said. As part of the empowerment programme, foreign-owned mining firms that have filed acceptable plans to meet the indigenisation thresholds in line with the law have undertaken to release a portion of their equity to local communities where they are operating. The empowerment laws compel foreign-owned firms, including banks and mines, to transfer at least 51 percent ownership to locals by 2014. Under the new ownership structure, workers are also set to benefit. Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, alongside his Local Government, Rural and Urban Development counterpart, Dr Ignatius Chombo, last week met traditional chiefs in the Mhondoro-Ngezi area where Zimplats is operating. The ministers explained how the trusts would operate. They said the benefits should be there for all to see in the respective communities. Minister Kasukuwere dispelled fears that the programme had been hijacked by influential individuals for their own benefit. He said the programme was broad-based and would be in existence for future generations. "We have taken a risk and you, as the custodians of these mineral resources, should be rewarded," he said. "We have to strike a balance between the aspirations of the people and our investors. There will always be challenges along the way and you must be mindful of those trying to derail the progress." Addressing the people in Zvishavane after touring Mimosa Platinum Mine, Minister Kasukuwere said they should have the courage to say "We can do it" and prepare themselves to play a meaningful role in the company once their stake had been placed on the table. Aquarius Platinum and Impala Platinum of South Africa jointly own Mimosa. The company's managing director, Mr Winston Chitando, said Mimosa had submitted its indigenisation plan but he could not give details as it was still being considered by the ministry. The delegation visited Mimosa and met five local chiefs and Member of the House of Assembly for the area, Mr Obert Matshalaga, and former Midlands Governor Mr Cephas Msipa. The management team was praised by Minister Kasukuwere for employing locals and engaging local entrepreneurs to supply up to 70 percent of consumables for the mine. Besides providing housing that has transformed the Zvishavane town that nearly collapsed with the closure of SMM Mines a few years ago, the nearly 2 000-strong workforce is upbeat about what they expect to achieve with the latest developments at the mine. They chose not to talk much about it at this stage, opting instead to wait for the official announcement, expected anytime soon. Minister Kasukuwere, accompanied by the chairman of the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board, Mr David Chapfika, toured the newly-opened Unki Mine in Shurugwi, owned by the Anglo- American plc group. The company's country director, Mr James Maposa, and its finance director, Mr Collen Chibafa, assured the local community that negotiations with the ministry over compliance issues would be concluded soon.