The “Big Two”

Two multinationals above all have secured a stranglehold over Zimbabwe’s economy. They have built multi-million dollar empires which reach into every sector of the economy: mining, agriculture, industry, banking. They exploit and oppress their workforce, as the examples on these pages will show yet both have enormous influence over the government.

Both have drained countless millions of dollars of foreign exchange from Zimbabwe in the form of profits — yet both have received still more millions in foreign exchange from the government by selling off shares in some of their companies.

Power over these empires is concentrated in the hands of a few white directors who personally control most of Zimbabwe’s key companies.

The first and by far the biggest of these two multinational parasites is the Anglo-American Corporation of South Africa (Anglo). The other is Lonrho.


Lonrho grew up in Smith’s Rhodesia, with one foot in apartheid South Africa.

Between 1963 and 1987 most of its mining operations in Zimbabwe were controlled by its SA subsidiary, Coronation Syndicate. Lonrho consultant Duncan Sandys, a former British Conservative cabinet minister, was a personal friend of SA foreign minister Muller.

These links with South Africa enabled Lonrho to play a key part in the sanctions-busting campaign which kept the Smith regime alive. The following are some of the companies Lonrho bought in Rhodesia during UDI: Rhodesian Star Mining Co. (1966); Nippon Motor Sales (Rhodesia) (1966); David Whitehead & Sons (1968); Rhodesian Wattle Co. (1969); Zambezi Coachworks (1969); Shamva gold mine (1969); Falcon Athens gold mine (1974).

At the same time Lonrho was expanding into Zambia, Kenya, Malawi and other independent countries. Lonrho boss “Tiny” Rowland became very skilled in bribing and flattering his way into personal “friendship” with black leaders. Involving the government in its activities became the hallmark of Lonrho’s operations in the black states.

To protect these interests Lonrho put out the lie that it might be withdrawing from Rhodesia. In fact, in 1973-74 alone the number of Lonrho companies in Rhodesia increased from 32 to 40!

As Rowland himself boasted, Lonrho “had a lot of influence with the black states of Africa” … but “had always been a friend to South Africa”!

“Influence” over Zimbabwe…

By the time Zimbabwe became independent Lonrho had expanded into a multinational giant. In Appendix 1 we publish a list of some of the companies which Lonrho owned in Zimbabwe at that stage.

Since independence Lonrho’s interests have continued to increase. In 1987, for example, Lonrho bought Charter Estates, one of Mashonaland’s biggest ranches, with over 40,000 hectares of land and 6,000 cattle.

Its profits are beyond the dreams of the workers who produce them. In Zimbabwe its turnover was $46 million for the year to September 1987, producing $6.4 million profits (after tax) for Rowland and his friends. Yet this was only a small part of Lonrho’s world-wide operations. By 1987 it was the 34th biggest company in Britain with group sales of £3,000 million ($9,600 million), controlling over 800 companies and employing 124,484 people.

In 1989 its profits totalled £273 million ($957 million) before tax, with half of it coming from Africa. It is the largest commercial food producer in Africa, with 120,000 head of cattle. Within Africa, most profits come from South Africa. 45 per cent of its total profits are expected to come from South Africa in the next few years.

Compare this with the Industrial Development Corporation’s profit of $3.37 million in 1987 — less than one per cent of Lonrho’s!

…and “a friend of South Africa”!

In November 1986 Rowland visited Zimbabwe and was well received by Mugabe. This was an example of Lonrho’s tactics. It claimed it wanted the government to have a “stake” in its activities. This means: taking money from the government while gaining government protection for its exploitation of Zimbabwean workers!

“Lonrho helps build Zimbabwe,” ran its propaganda message. But at the same time Lonrho was negotiating a much bigger and more important deal — the purchase of Western Platinum in South Africa!

This hypocrisy forced the Herald to criticise Lonrho in an editorial:

“The mask has fallen, to reveal the true features of capitalism for Lonrho…Mr Rowland, this supposed friend of Africa…is now outbidding other capitalists in a race to boost apartheid’s fortunes…Does “Tiny” believe Africa’s leaders are so “tame” that they will be silent over the South African deal which aims at financing the killer machine which apartheid is?” (20 February 1987)

This is precisely what “Tiny” believed. In no way would he let Zimbabwe get in the way of his SA operations. But he did not mind giving the government a spoonful of sugar to help it swallow its indignation.

First Lonrho dangled the promise of $20 million investment in Zimbabwe before the government’s eyes. Then it made a gesture of “withdrawal” from South Africa: Coronation Syndicate, its SA subsidiary, sold Corsyn (its key company in Zimbabwe) to Willoughby’s Consolidated, a Lonrho subsidiary in Britain.

In other words, Corsyn passed from “South African” to “British” control — but remained under Lonrho’s control. The trick seemed to work. In January 1988 the Sunday Mail reported: “It would seem that Tiny Lonrho’s giant multinational Lonrho has become the acceptable face of capitalism in socialist Zimbabwe…they entered 1988 in high profile. Their annual year-end dinner was an all-night success attended by a number of ministers…”

It has been left to the workers to lead the fight against these millionaire exploiters.

At Crittall-Hope, for example, a worker was sacked in early 1986 for refusing to continue painting a manager’s house after he was bitten by the owner’s dogs. In protest, 175 workers occupied the factory overnight.

The government should fully support such action as part of the struggle for a socialist alternative to Zimbabwe’s domination by the arrogant multinational bosses. Tragically, the government’s false policies lead it in the opposite direction.

At Arcturus mine, for example, workers expelled a manager in 1987 out of protest against management’s behaviour. But Minister of Mines Hove intervened, reinstated the manager, and said workers who didn’t like this should pack their bags and leave!


The Herald correctly attacked Lonrho for financing apartheid — but what about Anglo-American?

Anglo is the biggest company in South Africa, controlling 60 per cent of the shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Mining, steel, engineering, chemicals, explosives, car manufacture, paper, food and drink, publishing, finance, banking, life assurance — Anglo has a big finger in every pie. And its empire is constantly expanding.

In 1983, for example, Anglo took over South African Breweries. SAB had a monopoly over South Africa’s beer brewing and an empire of its own, including hotels, supermarket chains and the manufacture of footwear, furniture and household appliances. It also owned Delta Corporation, the biggest private company in Zimbabwe.

Anglo’s bosses say they oppose apartheid, and even finance the opposition Democratic Party as the “political wing” of their empire. Yet Anglo is “in many ways the dynamo of the apartheid economy” (South Africa Inc., p.247) and the driving force of the apartheid machine.

Anglo’s record

It is the mineowners’ hunger for cheap black labour that laid the basis for the reserve system, the pass laws and all the horrors of apartheid. Anglo’s “liberal” bosses are steeped from head to foot in the blood of the oppressed.

Countless black workers have perished down their mines because they refused to invest in adequate safety equipment. Many have been murdered by Anglo’s own police in strikes and demonstrations.

Fearing the growing struggles of the black mineworkers in the early 1980s Anglo agreed to negotiate with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), hoping to divert the workers’ anger into “safe” channels. But since the defeat of the mineworkers’ strike in 1987 Anglo has tried to take back the concessions. A shaft steward from Elandsrand reports:

“They are trying to annihilate the leaders of NUM. Management is going back to the traditions of repression where our forefathers could not have a say.”

Special permission is now needed to hold union meetings on the mines. Often repressive conditions are imposed: no speakers from the floor, no outside speakers, no singing and a time limit. At eight gold mines union meetings are bugged with tape recorders and cameras.

Attacks on workers by white overseers and members of Inkatha (the reactionary pro-capitalist organisation headed by Bantustan chief Buthlezi) have increased by 22 per cent on the coal mines and 77 per cent on the gold mines. Mine security often work closely with the racist police and security branch.

This is the “democracy” that Anglo’s “liberal” bosses stand for!

But their complicity with the apartheid regime goes even further than this. For example, AE&CI (an Anglo company) is at the heart of South Africa’s chemical and munitions industries. When the Soweto youth were tear-gassed and shot down by police, it was with gas and bullets supplied by AE&CI. Now University of Zimbabwe students say these weapons are being used against them.

An enemy of the liberation struggle

Also in the rest of Southern Africa Anglo has proved itself an enemy of the liberation struggle. Anglo supported the “great new Federation in the heart of Africa” in the 1950s and financed the racist Welensky’s United Federal Party. In the 1970s Anglo played a leading part in the imperialists’ scheme to impose “detente” in Zimbabwe in the hope of heading off the revolution and installing a puppet regime.

Anglo director Zac de Beer was specially sent to Zambia on this mission. His task was to help pressurise Kaunda into carrying out the imperialists’ demands.

The result was a brutal attack on Zanu by the Zambian regime which paralysed the liberation struggle for two years, giving the Smith regime a breathing space and costing thousands of lives in the war.

Most workers in Zimbabwe will not be aware of these facts, but the government is well aware of them … and yet since the moment of independence it has treated Anglo with the greatest friendliness and respect!

In May 1980 8,000 workers on Anglo’s Hippo Valley estate and 4,000 coal miners at Hwange were among the first to join in the great post-independence strike wave. At Hippo Valley the (then) Minister of Labour Kangai persuaded the workers to end this strike. At Hwange a government spokesman threatened the workers with mass dismissal unless they returned to work.

What an incredible state of affairs! Independence had been won after a heroic revolutionary war. A Zanu(PF) government had been elected which promised to end the domination of Zimbabwe by imperialism. In the workplaces the workers took up the struggle against the exploiters — but the government, instead of supporting them, took the side of the white bosses!

Even while the workers were moving into action, prime minister Mugabe was meeting with Anglo’s South African boss Harry Oppenheimer. Did he confront Oppenheimer with the workers’ demands? No — the meeting was “apparently convivial” (The Times, London, 7 May 1980)

These were not mere isolated incidents. In practice Anglo’s management — like Lonrho — have continued their rape of Zimbabwe with no regard for workers’ livelihoods and no fear of government opposition. It has been left to the workers to fight back. Let us look at a few of the struggles waged by Anglo workers in the last few years.

In October 1985 400 workers at Springmaster Furniture, Harare, were threatened with redundancy in a scheme to save the bosses’ profits. 700 workers occupied the factory, locked management out and kept production going.

The workers’ committee appealed to the government to take the factory over, but the government refused. The struggle ended with 100 workers losing their jobs. Later the bosses’ profits recovered — but the workers did not get their jobs back.

At Border Timbers in Mutare workers prevented management from closing the plant down. Then a pay award was imposed which the workers rejected. In protest 500 workers took over the plant and kept it running while management was locked in for 24 hours.

At the same time 1,000 workers went on strike at Anglo’s complex in Mazowe, demanding the new agro-industrial wage announced by the government. Eventually 70 per cent of workers were awarded the new wage.

Recently workers at Lobel’s Bakeries, demanding better working conditions and a reasonable wage, also had a taste of Anglo’s “liberal” methods. A worker reports:

“For fighting for some of our basic demands our workers’ committee leaders were suspended. Workers threatened to take action. The bosses told us they were not fired and would return to work soon. The fired workers were then told to resume work. After working for a month or less they were moved to other subsidiaries.” (Izwi/IIizwi, May 1989)

Playing along with the bosses

None of this has disturbed the government’s cosy relationship with the Anglo bosses.

In April 1987 Anglo director Roy Lander donated $18,000 to the ruling party. Accepting the gift, Nelson Mawema said it “showed Anglo-American’s appreciation of Zanu(PF)’s efforts in keeping workers disciplined”! (Herald, 3 April 1987)

In December 1987 Mr Lander donated another $50,000 towards the new party headquarters in Harare. This time Mugabe himself accepted the gift — and “called for continued association and identification with the ruling party”! (Herald, 24 December 1987)

But what are these gifts compared with the millions of dollars in profits that Anglo sucks from Zimbabwe every year? The early imperialists used trinkets to “buy” the land of African tribes when they could not take it by force. Anglo uses small change to “buy” favours from Zimbabwe’s leaders now that their own white government is no longer ruling the country.

And yet the government does not criticise Anglo. When Anglo’s boss Relly visited Zimbabwe, President Mugabe said he was “glad Relly had come.” (Herald 15 June 1989) The government is committed to seeking capitalist growth. It sees in Anglo an economic power far greater than its own. That is why it plays along with the handful of white capitalists who run Anglo.

A “gang of four”

Anglo’s main subsidiary in Zimbabwe is Anglo American Corporation Zimbabwe (Amzim). According to its 1986 annual report, Amzim’s investments were worth $87.5 million and yielded a return of $16.9 million.

Amzim is effectively controlled by Minorco (AAC’s international arm) which owns 47% of its shares.

Amzim’s key directors are four white Zimbabwean capitalists: R.P. Lander, G.T. Bain, W.K. Smart and D.E. Dennet. These four men are directors of no fewer than 88 other companies in Zimbabwe — including many of the country’s most important companies. Blacks are only brought in as directors in specific companies, like Hwange Collieries, for public relations purposes.

In Appendix 2 we publish a list of these companies.

But, with the power of Anglo behind them, Lander, Bain, Smart and Dennet are no ordinary directors. When they speak, other directors will listen; when they “propose”, others will obey; when they insist, their word will be law.

This is what the government’s policy has led to: four unelected capitalists wield greater power over workers’ lives than the government which we elected! Is this majority rule?

The web of multinational control does not end with these 89 companies. The top directors of one multinational empire also serve on the boards of others, creating a secret mafia with the power to decide the fate of nations.

For example, Lonrho director Ian Marcus Hossy is also a director of Anglo-American in South Africa, as well as Coronation Syndicate, Western Platinum and other major SA companies.

Now we can see more clearly what was really at stake when President Mugabe accepted that cheque from Mr Lander in December 1987. A single word from Lander could determine the policy of each of these 89 companies and influence many others. This one man has more power over the day-to-day running of production than the government.

Only socialist policies can challenge Lander’s power: taking the entire Anglo empire in Zimbabwe into state ownership, combined with a mobilisation of the Anglo workers to end the bosses’ dictatorship in the workplace, and a direct appeal to the black South African working class to combat SA retaliation.

But, because he shrinks from these policies, Mugabe has to be content with Lander’s cheque — and smile.

Some Anglo companies — and their profits

The overall control of the Anglo empire is exercised by a few core companies with a small number of directors: Anglo American Corporation Services Zimbabwe, Amvest and Amzim Finance. Little is disclosed about these companies whose directors exercise control over the more public Anglo American Corporation of Zimbabwe (Amzim) and the many other companies which make up the largest corporate group in the country.

In mining…

In the mining sector Amzim owns two of the most important companies: Bindura Nickel (profit in 1984-85: $12.7 million) and Zimbabwe Alloys (profit $14.7 million).

This gives Anglo control over many mines: Buchwa and Dorowa iron ore mines, Epoch copper mine, Madziwa and Shangani nickel mines, Sutton and Vanad chrome mines, and others.

Amzim also controls the strategically vital Hwange Colliery (profit $14.7 million) which dominates the country’s coal supply.

Other Anglo companies in the mining sector include Boart Drilling and Contracting, Trojan Nickel, Consolidated Mines and others. One in five mineworkers is employed by Anglo.


Anglo dominates Zimbabwe’s chemical industry. Through various shareholdings it controls Zimphos and plays an important part in Sable Chemicals as well as the fertiliser and pesticide distributors ZFC.


Amzim controls the key investment bank RAL Holdings. Profit for 1986: $4.4 million. RAL directors are also involved with Barclays and Standard Chartered banks.


Amzim controls Hippo Valley Estates, the country’s largest sugar producer, with profits of $4.4 million in 1984/85. It owns Border Timbers (1986 net earnings: $1.5 million) and Mazoe Citrus Estates. (The second-largest sugar producer, ZSR, is controlled by the British multinational Tate & Lyle).

Triangle Ltd. is owned by another Anglo subsidiary, the Tongaat-Hulett Group.

food and retail…

Delta Corporation (1989/90 profits: $70 million) controls OK Bazaars and Springmaster Furniture (1984/85 turnover $85 million), Edgars Stores (1986 net earnings: $2.9 million), Zimbabwe Sun Hotels (1984/85 turnover $19.7 million) and Unibev, which makes Coca-Cola (1984/85 turnover $30.1 million). It also has a big share in African Distillers.

Anglo has an important stake in National Food, the biggest miller in the country which supplies most of our sadza (1986 net earnings: $8.5 million). In 1985 the government threatened to nationalise the milling industry in order to gain some control over food prices — then quickly backed down.

Delta also owns National Breweries (1984/85 turn-over $88.5 million) and Chibuku Breweries ($76.3 million).

…and every other sector!

Only a workers’ government, able to open all companies’ books, will one day be able to expose the full extent of Anglo’s economic domination of Zimbabwe. Even small and unknown Anglo companies are profiteering behind the scenes from the labour of Zimbabwe’s workers.

For example, how many workers have heard of Ipcorn Ltd.? In 1986 this company increased its profits to $2.1 million. The reason: coffee prices had risen, making Ipcorn’s investment in the coffee industry more profitable. As a result dividends to shareholders were increased from 14.5 cents to 20 cents per share. Anglo is the main shareholder in Ipcorn. What profits are made by the other companies listed in Appendix 2? What are those profits used for? What contribution could they make to the needs of the masses if the working class ruled the country?

Continue to Chapter Five