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Controversial Mines Bill dead in the water
Cuthbert Nzou, Zim Online (SA)
January 30, 2008

Harare - A draft government Bill forcing mining firms to transfer majority stake to local blacks will no longer become law after Parliament adjourned without passing the proposed legislation. Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma told Zim Online on Tuesday that under parliamentary procedures and regulations, the controversial Bill that was tabled in Parliament last December naturally lapsed after the House stopped sitting a fortnight ago. Parliament will resume sitting after the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections on March 29 and the new government will have an option to reintroduce the Mines and Minerals Act Amendment Bill. "The Bill is no longer of any effect at all," Zvoma said. "Parliament will start sitting after the polls and this means the Bill has lapsed. It will be up to the new government whether or not to reintroduce it into a new Parliament." The controversial mining law that analysts have warned could deliver a killer-punch to an economy on the verge of total collapse proposes to force foreign-owned mining firms to transfer majority shareholding to indigenous Zimbabweans. This includes giving the government a free 25 percent stake.

President Robert Mugabe, whose ruling Zanu PF party is widely expected to retain absolute majority in Parliament, has defended the draft Bill as necessary to ensure blacks also have a share of the country’s lucrative mineral wealth. Mines Minister Amos Midzi was not immediately available to shed light on whether the government would resume attempts to pass the law if it is re-elected in March. Under the proposed law, the government will take over 51 percent of firms mining strategic minerals such as coal and coal-bed methane, with the state taking 25 percent of that stake free. The government will also take 25 percent shareholding in precious minerals such as gold, diamond and platinum while another 26 percent will go to local blacks. Some foreign-controlled mining firms have threatened to scale down operations or withdraw from the country altogether if Harare goes ahead with plans to force them to transfer shareholding to locals. Zimbabwe is grappling with a severe economic crisis blamed on Mugabe's controversial policies, such as the seizure of white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks. The veteran ruler, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, denies mismanaging the economy and says it has been sabotaged by foreign firms and western nations plotting to undermine his rule.

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