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Sir Richard Branson accused of being 'vulture' in Zimbabwe

by Aislinn Laing (Telegraph UK)

Mr Mugabe's Zanu PF party has suggested that Sir Richard was seeking to capitalise on Zimbabwe's recently discovered diamond wealth when he launched Enterprise Zimbabwe in New York this week.

Tendai Midzi, a columnist whose father is a chairman of Zanu PF, claimed the British billionaire, who has a string of investments over the border in South Africa, was attempting to "re-colonise" Zimbabwe and counter the growing influence of China in Africa.

"Zimbabwe is the new battleground for a new Cold War," he wrote on the Zanu PF-supporting Zimbabwe Guardian website.

Tendai Midzi is reportedly the son of Amos Midzi, the Zanu PF chairman in Harare Province.

His comments come just days after Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC Prime Minister in an uneasy coalition with Mugabe's Zanu PF, sought to reassure foreign businessmen that his country was a safe investment.

Sir Richard told philanthropists at the Clinton Global Initiative forum in New York that the West was "wrong to wait" for Mr Mugabe's demise before it re-engaged with Zimbabwe.

"In life, people have got to take risks. If everybody waits on the sidelines it will be the people who suffer," he said. "The present state of politics in Zimbabwe is by no means perfect, but it's a great deal better."

But Mr Midzi questioned why Sir Richard himself had waited to invest in Zimbabwe, pointing out that he has for years had business interests in neighbouring South Africa – including Virgin Active gyms, Virgin Atlantic flights and a luxury safari lodge.

"No one would argue that had Mr Branson come to our rescue four five, ten years ago, he would have been more honourable and believable. Why now?" he wrote.

"Zimbabweans that remained in the country and busted sanctions from within will not tolerate this backdoor entry by "vultures" disguised as angels.

What has changed? Is it a realisation that there could be huge profits to be made from the vast mineral deposits in the country?"

Neither Sir Richard nor Mr Midzi could be reached for comment.

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