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We are failing to learn from past mistakes

I THOUGHT the wound which is still fresh upon Zimbabwe’s government would remind them not to repeat the same mistakes.

Barely a decade since the so called land acquisition and redistribution programme in Zimbabwe, I gather the government now wants to pass a bill into law which will mandate all foreign owned/controlled companies to cede 51% control stake to local Zimbabweans. Once again the idea is a noble one but wrong timing and wrong methodology.
I say it is wrong timing because I am of the view that the government should be focusing its modest resources on trying to capacitate our waning business sectors of the economy and increasing productivity which is now still under 35% in most sectors of the economy. They should also be improving infrastructure and technology to match or better that of industrialised nations and improve social services and delivery in order to create a vibrant economy once again. After that we can tackle the issue of indigenisation.
If we are not cautious we will repeat the same mistake we made on land redistribution and the whole issue will defeat its purpose.
It is not that I do not subscribe to the notion that locals should own the means of production in their own motherland but that I say that we have to be pragmatic on the methodology we choose to roll out such an economically sensitive programme rather than be driven by emotions.
Thus if one chooses to implement a political policy without respecting the economic issues, the economic consequence will be unbearable.  Indeed change is not made without inconvenience, even for better or worse, but in this case we should do a methodical risk analysis.
The following are some of the strategies and policies which can be adapted at the appropriate time for successful implementations of the programme and to attain deliverables which will leave the economy in a more than sound economic situation:
lA broad based consultation with all stakeholders; Chamber of Commerce, banking sector, captains of industry, labour unions, civic organisations, universities and colleges, owners of the foreign-owned companies and the people at large
lForming a commission which will carry out a feasibility study of the different sectors of the economy to identify the number of companies which are foreign controlled, composition of black managers in the management structures and decision-making structures of the respective companies. This commission should look into how and when to implement the process without affecting productivity, and without sending out signals that Zimbabwe has no respect for private property and ownership laws.
l The same commission should then develop an economic empowerment policy coined around a broad based economic empowerment programme which does not discriminate or favour certain individuals or groups of people in transferring ownership of these companies to natives.
lThe commission should also ascertain the availability of financial requirements for capacity building for all human and capital resources needed to implement the indigenisation programme and if need be fundraising for the needed resources. This is to guarantee full compensation when shares are purchased and avoid seizures of the firms and unethical acquisitions.
lSetting and monitoring regulations governing the acquisition of the shares so that not only a few of the black elite get financed or get the opportunity to acquire the shares. This would otherwise be a simple transfer of wealth from foreign ownership to a few favoured people.
I am afraid if we rush the indigenisation programme we are going to cause more harm to the economy and aggravate the misery of the common man on the street. Let’s not allow ourselves to repeat the same mistake twice of “taking a fence down before we appreciate the reason why it was put there in the first place.”
It’s also high time most of these Zanu PF ministers let go of their know-it-all mentality and their minds will be more open and will be able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others.

Collen Ngundu,
collenngundu@cooltoad.com

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