By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
16 April 2014
The ZANU PF government could be having second thoughts about its indigenisation policy following utterances by two of the party’s Cabinet ministers this week.
In an interview with business news agency The Source, Indigenisation Minister Francis Nhema was quoted as saying the government will balance time frames guiding the transfer of majority stakes in foreign-owned firms to locals with the new investors’ ability to pay for the shareholding.
Nhema said the problem with time frames was that indigenous players may fail to raise the funds for the 51% stake within that time.
Since taking over from Saviour Kasukuwere at the controversial indigenisation ministry, Nhema has adopted a “softly-softly approach” and indicated his willingness to relax the investor-hostile policy.
Last year, Nhema agreed to review the State’s indigenisation plans regarding foreign-owned Zimplats, whose viability has been greatly affected by this investor-hostile policy.
In a separate interview Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi told the NewsDay newspaper that the country’s empowerment policies need to be re-assessed in light of the recent US ban on elephant ivory imports.
The US government this month suspended the import of sport-hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Tanzania, citing questionable management practices and a lack of effective law enforcement.
Animal conservationists say the move could be a response to the ZANU PF government’s unlawful allocation of hunting licenses to its cronies.
Mzembi urged a soft stance approach to the parcelling out of wildlife conservancies to indigenous blacks, saying the issue needed “very sober introspection from all those involved” for the benefit of the country, the NewsDay said Wednesday.
The minister is further quoted as saying he supports “the empowerment of individuals, but not the same old faces,” in what appears to be an admission that the indigenisation policy has been used to enrich a few in government circles.
Businesses and anti-corruption activists have for a long time said that the law was not only irrational but self-defeating for a government that should be doing everything it can to attract investors and revive the economy.
Just this week the Centre for Research Development’s James Mupfumi said the whole policy was “designed to suit the interests of politicians contrary to assurances that it seeks to empower ordinary citizens.
“The indigenisation law was only used to position individuals in political spheres to allow them to penetrate the mining sector and loot minerals. It is not about community benefit,” Mupfumi said in remarks quoted by The Zimbabwean newspaper.
According to the Act which ZANU PF created in 2008, foreign-owned companies should cede 51% of their stake to indigenous Zimbabweans.
The MDC-T MP for Nkulumane Thamsanqa Mahlangu said ZANU PF had been forced by economic circumstances to give in on the indigenisation law.
“It’s not exactly a softening of their stance but an issue of the deteriorating economic environment forcing them to re-think the policy.
“They have known for some time now that this was a bad law crafted to benefit the same names such as the Chiyangwas and Mliswas and not the ordinary person,” the MP said.
Mahlangu, who also sits on the parliamentary committee on indigenisation, said the government should completely overhaul the indigenisation empowerment policy to attract investors and also to ensure that ordinary Zimbabweans benefit from the country’s resources.