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Mugabe delays signing investor law

Business Day (South Africa)

22 August 2006

Mugabe delays signing investor law

Wyndham Hartley

Parliamentary Editor

CAPE TOWN — The future of South African investment in mining and precious metals still hangs in the balance as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has delayed signing laws that will protect the business interests of investors.

The issue of the bilateral investment protection agreement between Pretoria and Harare hit the headlines about two years ago when South Africans who owned farms in Zimbabwe lost them in Mugabe’s land reform debacle.

The two governments under-took to negotiate an investment agreement but yesterday Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said it was still not in place. She had said at the time that she was attempting to get such an agreement signed - having negotiated its details.

In a written response to a parliamentary question from Democratic Alliance (DA) chief whip Douglas Gibson, Dlamini- Zuma acknowledged yesterday that government had taken note of Harare’s stated intention of nationalising mines.

“The government has noted the government of Zimbabwe’s inten-tion to acquire a 51% interest in mining companies involved in energy minerals, as well as a 51% share in all precious metals and gemstone mines,” she said.

She explained that while the changes had been approved by the Zimbabwean cabinet, they had not as yet been formalised or converted into a bill that would need to be enacted to amend Zimbabwe’s Mines and Minerals Act.

“Government is therefore still waiting to see what the outcome of these proposed changes will be,” Dlamini-Zuma said.

She said that it was also “continuing to pursue its efforts to get the outstanding bilateral investment-protection agreement to protect the commercial interests of South African nationals in Zimbabwe signed”.

In response to Dlamini-Zuma, Gibson said SA clearly enjoyed the Mugabe government leading it by the nose.

He said there could be no other explanation “for the extraordinary patience” Pretoria had shown over the signing of an agreement, which “the minister told me two years ago was ready for signature”.

“When will SA begin to act as other democratic governments do elsewhere and protect the interests of their investors? German and French investors can rely on their governments to protect their interests, while South Africans cannot,” Gibson said.

 source: Business Day