Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bennett, party at odds over investment in Zimbabwe

Old Mutual’s Zimbabwean subsidiary receives support for its investment in Zimbabwe from the main MDC-T opposition party.
Published: 2011/03/29 07:26:56 AM

OLD Mutual ’s Zimbabwean subsidiary yesterday received unlikely support for its investment in Zimbabwe from the main MDC-T (Movement for Democratic Change) opposition party.
This is after the party distanced itself from calls by one of its senior members, Roy Bennett, who wants the insurer to disinvest from two companies he says represent the face of alleged repression taking place in the embattled country.
Mr Bennett, who is in self- imposed exile in SA, has mounted a campaign to force Old Mutual to cut its ties with Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers) and Mbada Diamonds.
The two firms are directly owned by the state. Old Mutual has an indirect stake in Mbada Diamonds of 1,5% via its stake in New Reclamation Group. It also owns about 18% of Zimpapers.
Mr Bennett last week accused Old Mutual in Cape Town of investing in companies that are associated with the former Zimbabwe ruling Zanu (PF) party.

This is despite the fact that MDC-T is a partner with Zanu (PF) in the same government that he is critical of . The other partner is a smaller splinter party formed by disgruntled members from the original MDC party.

Mr Bennett wants Old Mutual to disinvest from the two firms, particularly "its blood-stained investment" in the diamond mine. The mine has been at the centre of controversy over allegations of rights abuses of villagers near the mine in eastern Zimbabwe. But the global diamond trade watchdog, the Kimberley Process , has given Zimbabwe the green light to export Chiadzwa diamonds.

Mr Bennett says some of the newspapers owned by Zimpapers are "spewing hate speech".

A spokesman for Mr Bennett’s party, Nelson Chamisa, yesterday said the public spat between Old Mutual and Mr Bennett did not represent the party’s official position. "That is Bennett’s view, not the position of the party," said Mr Chamisa, who is also minister of information and communications technology.
Mr Bennett was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press. With Dumisani Muleya

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