By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
26 May 2014
An alleged ‘climb-down’ by ZANU PF on the controversial indigenisation policy has been received with caution, with some observers questioning if nothing more than propaganda is at the heart of this change.
The indigenisation campaign, which has been central to ZANU PF’s pre and post election strategy, has been described as a key reason why critically needed foreign investment is being withheld.
The Indigenisation Act stipulates that foreign business must cede 51% of their shareholding to ‘indigenous’ Zimbabweans. Since its enactment the law has seen many major international firms face threats and ultimatums from ZANU PF, to fall in line or face being booted out the country.
But in recent months, with the local economy facing collapse, the rhetoric has started changing and even Robert Mugabe said the policy was being ‘misinterpreted’.
Information minister Jonathan Moyo this weekend then used the Sunday Mail newspaper as a platform to ‘unpack’ the ZANU PF position on the indigenisation plans. Moyo, who has for years been regarded as ZANU PF’s chief spin doctor, told the Sunday Mail that the party was taking a “pragmatic approach” to indigenisation and that the policy will be ‘reviewed’ and ‘tightened’.
“We are reviewing and tightening the indigenisation and empowerment policy by being pragmatic without being dogmatic about it. There has been some confusion and misunderstanding over the modalities for achieving (the 51 percent threshold),” Moyo told the Sunday Mail.
He added: “Consequently, we pointed out that, going forward there is a need to review, tighten and strengthen both the law and policy so that among other things, we clarify the fact that the indigenous Zimbabweans cannot be expected or required to buy back their God-given natural or economic resources.”
Economic analyst Masimba Kuchera told SW Radio Africa that until there is a “concrete” change to the laws, there will be no confidence in the changing rhetoric being uttered.
“It seems ZANU PF has realised that their hardline stance is not going to win them as many friends as they had wished, but whether it is genuine or not remains to be seen,” Kuchera said.
He explained that attempts at a ‘moderate’ approach have already been voiced, with the ZANU PF politburo resolving to honour Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotions Agreements (BIPPAs) in the Save Valley Conservancy. This resolution was made earlier this month but still nothing has changed in the Conservancy, where BIPPA protected land was seized by party and army officials.
“For confidence building sake we need something written down. Hopefully the issue around indigensation will be tackled in such a way that it is written into law and changes are made,” Kuchera said.
UK based Zimbabwean commentator Wilbert Mukori meanwhile said the ‘pragmatic’ propaganda being voiced by Moyo is part of wider efforts aimed at normalising relations with the West. Mukori told SW Radio Africa that the party is trying to curry favour with international governments.
“They are desperate to assure investors. But the reality is no one is going to buy it. Even if they scrapped the indigenisation laws, no one will believe it because they know this regime can just change it and revert back to its usual ways of illegal land grabs,” Mukori said.
He said ZANU PF’s past of ignoring property rights for its own gains means there is no confidence, regardless of the propaganda being voiced.
He added: “The reality is this is an illegitimate government that rigged the elections. For them to say they will now restore the rule of law, it just doesn’t work. The only way to build confidence and restore Zimbabwe to the rule of law is to hold legitimate, democratic elections.”