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Harare yet to pay for Zimplats land minister ‘seized’
February 15 2013 at 08:00am
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Peta Thornycroft Harare
Zimbabwe Mining Minister Obert Mpofu made headlines this week when he said
he had “taken” 27 000ha of land from South African-owned platinum producer
Zimplats. But Zimplats sold this land to the government in 2006 –with one
minor outstanding problem: the government has not paid.
Zimplats sold the land to the government in the hope that it would be
exchanged for empowerment credits.
“The credits didn’t emerge so the land is now accounted for within the 51
percent indigenisation deal,” an insider in Harare said.
The empowerment deal agreed last month between the Zimbabwe government and
Impala Platinum (Implats), the owner of Zimplats, set the value of the land
at $153 million (R1.4 billion).
Zimplats agreed to the 51 percent indigenous deal with the Zimbabwe
government as follows: new shareholders will have to find about $1bn to pay
for the land and 31 percent of the shares within 10 years or the deal falls
away. Zimplats agreed 10 percent of its shares would go to a community trust
and 10 percent to workers.
The land is a slice between the company’s operations at Selous, about 70km
from Harare, extending 40km to the Darwendale Dam.
The land has hardly been used in the years since Zimplats sold it. A few
Chinese nationals living in caravans went onto a bit of the land and
scratched around with a drill for a year or two. A couple of Russian arms
dealers also poked around in the land for a while and then abandoned their
The land has never been prospected and Zimplats sold it with a mere
guesstimate of the value of the platinum underground.
None of the companies that signed “indigenisation” deals with the government
of Zimbabwe last month are keen to discuss the details. But insiders believe
that completion dates for the government to buy 51 percent shareholdings in
two other platinum producers, Mimosa and Unki, are far sooner than the
decade agreed with Zimplats.
Mpofu also says platinum producers must build a refinery within two years
rather than send the the material to be refined in South Africa.
“Sure a refinery can be built. It will cost about $1bn, and who is going to
pay for that? And even if the government found the money to pay for it
themselves, where would the government get the electricity to run it?” an
insider asked. “Zimbabwe is chronically short of electricity.”
Implats chief executive Terence Goodlace said last month that Zimplats would
increase production from 180 000 ounces to 270 000 ounces of platinum a year
by 2015. – Independent Foreign Service