8 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Indian Official Confronts Mpofu Over ESSAR Deal

INDIAN counsular secretary in Harare Rakshpavl Malhotra pulled a shocker on Wednesday when he unexpectedly confronted Mines minister Obert Mpofu over the stalled Essar Africa Limited (Essar) deal.

Malhotra was leading an Indian delegation comprising the country's Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion representative Anup Zaveri and Confederation of Indian Industry deputy director Anjula Solanky seeking to invest in Zimbabwe's lucrative diamond mining sector.

In response, Mpofu told Malhotra that his office was following cabinet directives and worked closely with other state departments and referred all questions to Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube.

"Some of us spend a lot of time fighting to defend our resources and we will not allow a situation that has no mutual benefits," said Mpofu. "I mean we all agree that you can't get an acre of land in India without meaningful justification. The ball is now in his (Ncube's) court because we have played our part," Mpofu said.

Malhotra's inquiry follows a Supreme Court ruling last week throwing out Rodreck Mumbire's court challenge following the transfer of some of the iron ore claims owned by Buchwa Iron Mining Company (Bimco) to Essar.

Soon after the Supreme Court ruling, Ncube told businessdigest the legal issue surrounding the mining claims had been one of the hurdles delaying full consummation of the Essar deal.

"We are in the process of bringing finality to the issue and are hopeful that within the next few weeks there will be timelines for when everything will be completed," said Ncube. "Those are some of the things that have been delaying us on this deal but they fall under the jurisdiction of the ministry of mines."

The deal, worth an estimated US$750 million, was sealed in March 2011, resulting in Ziscosteel being unbundled into two companies, NewZim Steel and NewZim Minerals.

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