Zimbabwe's "Tyson" goes the distance with foreign firms

Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:56pm GMT

By MacDonald Dzirutwe and David Dolan

HARARE/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Nicknamed "Tyson", Zimbabwe Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere doesn't shrink from a fight when it comes to taking on foreign companies that own mineral rights in his country.

"Somebody has to get them to understand the message," the man who has forced global miners to give up majority stakes in their Zimbabwe operations, told the Reuters Africa Investment Summit in Johannesburg on Monday.

"You can't continue with that old mentality of islands of prosperity and seas of poverty, it just can't work any more. When we talk to these companies, we are not being malicious or cruel, we are making them see the reality," said Kasukuwere, who takes his nickname from the U.S. heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson.

Critics accuse the former officer in Zimbabwe's feared Central Intelligence Organisation of acting outside the law in forcing foreign companies to comply.

Some say President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party is using the empowerment drive to squeeze money out of foreign firms to finance its election campaign.

"Tyson's" opponents also are suspicious of his leadership role in the ZANU-PF youth wing blamed by many for violence that has marred Zimbabwe elections over the last 12 years.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the rival Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who works uneasily with Mugabe, has been critical of the way the empowerment drive is implemented.

He says the campaign is driven by the upcoming elections and is scaring investors away.   Continued...

Zimbabwe's Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Saviour Kasukuwere speaks during the Reuters Africa Investment Summit in Sandton April 16, 2012.  REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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