By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
19 May 2014
The controversial indigenisation regulations, which say foreign investors should cede 51 percent of their businesses to locals, could soon claim a victim after a leading Bulawayo fast food outlet was given seven days to comply with the law.
The National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board on Friday threatened to shut down Golden Grill if it does not comply with the directive. But indigenisation minister Francis Nhema told the Southern Eye newspaper that he did not know anything about the move.
However the news angered the Bulawayo business community and labor groups, who said shutting down Golden Grill would be tantamount to ‘sabotage.’ The Association for Business in Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union led the condemnation of the directive, saying it would be wrong to close the firm in a city which is already experiencing high levels of unemployment due to company closures.
This development comes at a time when several government officials, including finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, have been indicating that they may be having second thoughts about the much derided law.
ZCTU secretary general Japhet Moyo said the threat to shut down Golden Grill will ‘send a wrong signal to other companies and no one will come because there is no clarity on the indigenisation policy.’
According to the law, investment in sectors such as grain milling, bakeries, local transportation and fast food out lets are reserved for locals. Golden Grill, which employs about 100 people in its three outlets, is owned by Paul Evans who as a white person is considered under the controversial law not to be indigenous enough.
SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme said he knows Evans to be a ‘committed local businessman.’ He added: ‘I have spoken to many local opinion leaders, including economist Eric Bloch, and they all feel that it is wrong to have a law that prohibits somebody from achieving their dreams on the basis of colour.’
The indigenisation law has been heavily criticized by many Zimbabwe watchers who feel that it not investor friendly.
The extent of global concern over the controversial law was revealed a few weeks ago when former South African president Thabo Mbeki visited President Mugabe to discuss the issue. Reports said Mbeki had been sent by concerned South African business men who want the law toned down.