HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe's president on Thursday told foreign investors that they must accept black Zimbabweans as the major shareholders in their projects — or stay away from the southern African nation.
Strict empowerment laws scheduled for phased enforcement over the next five years require black Zimbabweans to control 51 percent of each business.
At the funeral of a veteran leader in his ZANU-PF party Tuesday, Mugabe acknowledged the laws may deter potential investors, but said anyone who wanted to share the nation's resources "must get our permission to do so, in the manner we define" or stay away.
"We have the skills and we are saying we use these skills now as owners, not as managers," Mugabe said.
Zimbabwe is rich in farmland and minerals. Mugabe's statements come more than a month after Zimbabwe sold its first batch of some 900,000 carats of diamonds, ending a nine-month ban. The 2006 discovery in Zimbabwe of one of one of the biggest diamond finds in southern Africa in a century has generated great interest.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his party leaders in a coalition with Mugabe boycotted the funeral, which they described as a political event and not a state occasion.
Ephraim Masawi, a former lawmaker and provincial governor in Mugabe's party, died Saturday of cancer at age 60. He recruited guerrillas for the bush war that ended white rule at independence in 1980.
Mugabe said Masawi, a political commissar in his party's Soviet-era style politburo, fought against colonial dominance and Western foes still seeking ways, including investment, to re-establish their influence in the country.
"Let them stay away. Our true friends are eager to come," said Mugabe, who has championed stronger economic ties with Asian and Middle East countries.
He said some young black executives who "have been conditioned to worship the white man" would benefit from empowerment, enabling them to take over from the chief executives who hired them in the first place.
"We are free to run this country for our benefit and that of future generations. Our enemies are still against us. They want to oppress us again," he said.
A fragile coalition government with Tsvangirai was formed last year after a decade of political and economic turmoil that led to economic meltdown.
Mugabe blames targeted Western economic sanctions protesting his human rights record for the economic crisis.
Tsvangirai's party has expressed concerns over the impact of the empowerment program on recovery in the shattered economy.
Thursday's funeral at Heroes Acre, a North Korean-built shrine to fallen guerrillas and ZANU-PF politicians outside Harare, marked another rift in the coalition. A veteran aide and ally of Tsvangirai in the former opposition was denied a grave at the shrine last month.
In the absence of Tsvangirai's party at Thursday's funeral, Mugabe said the shrine was meant only for leaders who fought in the war against colonial era rule.
"Leaders of factories or any other institution don't expect to be buried here." Mugabe said.
Military chiefs have refused to salute Tsvangirai and colleagues who were not part of the independence war.