GWERU, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has said he wants native blacks to have full control of foreign-owned mining firms operating in the country. The 88-year-old leader was speaking while officially opening the conference of his ZANU-PF party. Mugabe also said he would call for elections next year regardless of whether there is a new constitution or not, as required by regional leaders.
ZANU-PF supporters showed their joy as their leader, Mugabe, arrived Friday in Gweru, about 300 kilometers southwest of Harare.
The conference is being held ahead of next year’s elections, which may explain why the president already seemed to be in the electioneering mood. He said the country has benefited from his policy of giving black Zimbabweans a 51 percent stake in all foreign-owned companies, but said that was not enough.
“I have told the ministry of mining that I think now we have done enough of 51-49. Let it be 100 percent. Then we do not send anything out. We do not send out that 49 percent,” said Mugabe.
Mugabe's "indigenization" policy has split Zimbabwe’s coalition government, with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party saying it scares away investors.
The president said that was the least of his concerns, though, as long as Zimbabweans were in charge of their resources.
“Let us be our own master, our own true developer of our resources,” he said.
He asserted that African leaders in oil-rich countries that allowed Western companies to explore for the "black gold" were irresponsible and must step down.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, a media and democracy doctorate student at University of Westminster in Britain, said the conference is an example of ZANU-PF's top-down management style.
“The leadership dynamics of ZANU-PF are not changed by these meetings since 1977," said Ruhanya. "This is an oligarchal meeting and the problem with these meetings is that their internal undemocratic practices are taken aboard over the confines of ZANU-PF to the national level. That is why we have democratic problems in this country.”
Eye on election
The conference ends Saturday, with Mugabe very likely to be named the party's presidential candidate for polls expected sometime in 2013.
Mugabe wants to end the power-sharing government he was forced to form with the MDC party after the disputed and violent 2008 polls.
But the elections are being held up because of a disagreement between Mugabe's and Tsvangirai's parties over the details of a new constitution. On Friday, Mugabe underscored that he would call for elections if the dispute can not be resolved.