Zimbabwe may water down a demand that foreign companies hand over majority stakes in their local operations to black investors, instead asking that they sell a percentage of holdings and invest in social programmes.

Chief mining commissioner Fredson Mabhena said achieving a 51% black-ownership level is proving to be the major obstacle to implementing the law, reports Bloomberg.

The proposed legislation was scheduled to come into effect on 1 March, giving companies worth more than $500,000 five years to increase the proportion of their assets owned by black investors.

Anglo American, Old Mutual and Rio Tinto have operations in Zimbabwe.