‘Government revising empowerment rules’

INDIGENISATION and Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere published empowerment regulations compelling foreigners to “cede” 51% shareholding to blacks “prematurely” and did not have the cabinet’s nod to proceed, Industry minister Welshman Ncube has said.

Ncube told delegates to his breakfast meeting in the capital on Wednesday that Kasukuwere had prematurely published the empowerment regulations without cabinet legal committee’s approval or input.  He said the government was now revising the regulations.

“The minister published the regulations prematurely,” Ncube said. “The procedure is that you take the regulations to the cabinet committee on legislation and the committee deliberates. It is now before the cabinet committee on legislation. We have asked other ministers to make contributions.”

He was responding to concerns raised by business leaders on the regulations that became operational on Monday.

The regulations, among other things, compel all foreigners and whites to sell 51% in every existing business, partnership, association or sole proprietorship with an asset value of US$500 000 or more to submit a report to Kasukuwere by April 15. Defaulters face a fine and/or imprisonment for up to five years.

Companies would have to submit empowerment plans to the minister outlining time frames of when they intend to comply.

Ncube added: “Clearly, from the presentations, we have a consensus that we need empowerment. What we do not have is consensus as to how to achieve empowerment of our people while growing the economy at the same time. We don’t have a methodology to do that yet.”

But Kasukuwere already has the blessing of President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF’s supreme decision-making body –– the politburo –– to implement the regulations.

Mugabe told supporters who attended his 86th birthday celebrations in Bulawayo last week that companies should follow the regulations without being coerced.

He said: “I have to state it clearly that we are not nationalising foreign-owned companies. What we want is to broaden the ownership structures of these companies so as to also involve our own citizens. We do not need to force companies to follow the regulations. They should just follow them without coercion.”

This is not the first time the inclusive government partners have differed on the empowerment regulations.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai last month attacked the regulations a few days after they were published saying the rules had been gazetted without consultation.

He said: “They were published without due process as detailed in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) and the Constitution and they are therefore null and void.”

The Indigenisation and Empowerment Bill was passed by Parliament in 2007 and assented to by Mugabe in 2008 before the creation of the inclusive government.

But business leaders want Kasukuwere’s powers curbed to prevent possible abuse of office and corruption. Businesses also want the word “cede” changed to “sell”.

They say “sell” assigns responsibility to the indigenous investor whereas “cede” implies giving away.

At the same Wednesday meeting, Chamber of Mines chief Victor Gapare also raised concerns over electricity outages.

Gapare said there was urgent need to address the ongoing power crisis.

“As at the end of last week, Hwange was delivering 50 MW, which basically means that it’s not in play at the moment,” Ncube said.

Another business leader, David Govere, said the shortage of power would slow down industrialisation of the country.

 

Chris Muronzi

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