Business takeovers stay, says Mugabe

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe pledged to move ahead with plans to hand over 51percent control of businesses to blacks under a controversial programme.

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe pledged to move ahead with plans to hand over 51percent control of businesses to blacks under a controversial programme.

During ceremonies marking the 30th anniversary of independence from colonial rule yesterday, Mugabe said the proposed business takeovers are an example of policies followed over the last three decades that enable locals to own the nation's resources.

The so-called indigenisation and empowerment act was passed in 2008, when parliament was still dominated by Mugabe's lawmakers.

The law came into force on March 1 and businesses were given up to April 15 to hand in proposals as to how they would hand over 51percent of their companies to blacks. This included foreign and white-owned businesses.

The party of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader who was also present at the ceremonies yesterday, has opposed the programme.

Tsvangirai's party last week said a meeting of the coalition cabinet chaired by Mugabe suspended the act.

Saviour Kasukwere, a minister from Mugabe's party in charge of empowerment policy, countered this and said the law would go ahead and had only been delayed for more discussions.

Mugabe said the nation faced continuing criticism from what he called "unrepentant and incorrigible racist forces". He said the coalition was proceeding with national reconstruction despite outside opposition from Western countries.

Seizures of white-owned farms and "now the indigenisation programme serve as concrete and living examples of empowerment ... designed chiefly to redress the historic imbalances in ownership of the economy," Mugabe said.

He did not elaborate on any fresh deadlines under the law.

Mugabe acknowledged a need for healing "following a period of polarisation and hostilities between our people".

Years of political violence, blamed on Mugabe militants, and economic turmoil came with the often violent seizures of white-owned farms that Mugabe ordered in 2000, disrupting the agriculture-based economy in the former regional breadbasket and leading to food shortages and world record inflation.

Human rights groups say at least 600 people, mostly Tsvangirai supporters, died in the past decade and tens of thousands of cases of torture, illegal arrests and other rights violations were reported. - Sapa-AP

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