Zimbabwe will soon probe foreign-owned firms to establish their level of compliance with a law requiring them to sell at least a 51 percent shareholding in their Zimbabwean operations to locals, an official said on Tuesday.

The heavily criticised law is aimed mainly at mining firms and banks operating in a resource-rich state that has become an economic basket case because of what analysts say are years of mismanagement by President Robert Mugabe's government.

Critics see the law as a way for the government to squeeze cash out of foreign firms in Zimbabwe and say the money will go to top officials, not to ordinary people, who rank among the poorest in the world.

The ministry charged with enforcing the law will team up with police to conduct the investigations, Wilson Gwatiringa, chief executive of the body set up to advise the government on implementing the law, told reporters.

The board is aware that many non-indigenous companies have not complied with the indigenisation law as they are reluctant to submit their plans for approval, Gwatiringa said.

Foreign firms deemed non-compliant could be fined or have their operating licences cancelled.