HomeOpinionI only consult when there is need –– Kasukuwere

Economic paradigm shift crucial

WITH the debate on the indigenisation regulations still raging on, the Zimbabwe Independent’s Chris Muronzi spoke to Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere about the matter. Below are excerpts of the interview.

Muronzi: You gazetted indigenisation regulations compelling foreigners to cede 51% shareholding to indigenous Zimbabweans. Is this the ideal time to carry out a wealth re-distribution exercise?

Kasukuwere: When is the right time for empowerment?

Muronzi: I say so because we are coming out of an economic crisis.

Kasukuwere: Exactly. The people must also come out of the crisis together with the economy. You will agree with me that there has been a racial skew of ownership in this country. Secondly, we must bring down barriers. They is a plethora of legislation and regulations which hinder the growth of the Zimbabwean people.

Muronzi: But banks are not offering long-term loans? Deposits are very low. By December banks had only US$1,3 billion. How are empowerment deals going to be funded?

Kasukuwere: Banks in this country had US$1,3 billion in terms of deposits. If you look at the statistics, 52% of those deposits have been collected by certain banks. If you look at this 52% which they collected, how much was lent to our people?

Muronzi: Banks argue that these deposits are short-term and transitory funds?

Kasukuwere: There is a misconception. Banks continue to charge punitive rates to businesses in this country on the pretext that deposits are short-term.
You don’t tell us overnight that US$1,3 billion will disappear. About US$500 million has been made available by the IMF which is coming into the economy. If banks received these deposits, what are their lending ratios? We have to use deposits to encourage economic growth.
There is need for a paradigm shift in the mentality of our bankers. Their thinking must be one that fits into the aspirations of our people. The financial services sector should accept its responsibilities.
You cannot say to me that US$1,5 billion is nothing, a small amount and that the banks must keep it. They (banks) don’t want to lend. Look at the loan-deposit ratios!

Muronzi: Your comments last week on banks that they should lend or “ship out”. Is this the new view in government? And isn’t this being militant?

Kasukuwere: I didn’t say they should “ship out”. I said we want our banks to realise that they have a responsibility. If they are licensed to operate in this country, they cannot come here and be a stranger to the people of this country.

Muronzi: Are banks sabotaging your plans?

Kasukuwere: Yes, it’s sabotage. There is a particular group that has gone out of its way to support black enterprises. Others are not interested in serving this country. Secondly, they have a view that is opposed to whatever we are trying to achieve. We are saying if you are in this country and you want to serve this country do so. If you don’t want to serve this country then the best thing for you to do is to go.

Muronzi:  How different is this wealth re-distribution exercise from the land reform?

Kasukuwere: The need to empower our people has always been the reason why blood was shed…

Muronzi: But agricultural output fell because of land reform and the manner in which it was implemented. Zimbabwe still relies on food imports. Isn’t this what we are going to see with the new exercise? Companies don’t have capital. Listed companies are floating rights issues and struggling to get underwriters.

Kasukuwere: So you are saying that we do nothing about empowerment?

Muronzi: I am asking whether this policy will be a success story against such a background.  Banks can’t finance long-term debt and long-term debt is what you need.

Kasukuwere: We are not going to wait because of this or that. There might not be sufficient funding per se but whatever is available must be utilised. We are against lack of funding blocking the process. The whole essence of empowerment is to get the majority to participate.
We realise there is need to have a funding mechanism as government. We understand the problem this economy has but the little resources that we have should be made available.

Muronzi: This comes back to the allegations that the chefs got a lion’s share of farms. President (Robert) Mugabe admits owning two farms but said one was a family business. How are you going to ensure that the same people do not use indigenisation for personal enrichment?

Kasukuwere: It’s sad that we are a country that is consumed by things we can’t prove. We have a problem if it’s Kasukuwere. Why is Kasukuwere buying this or owning that? But if it’s Mr Smith, you will actually throw a party and celebrate because it’s a white man. Because we are saying Zimbabweans must benefit, it is now a problem.

Muronzi: The Chamber of Mines presented a paper to government where they said government should pursue empowerment in mining differently. Mines proposed releasing mineral rights to government in exchange for empowerment credits. Your comment.

Kasukuwere: These were submissions. We are making progress with key industry players and they are co-operating with us.

Muronzi: What happens to Zimplats who released mineral rights worth US$150 million?

Kasukuwere: That is not my area. That is for the Mines ministry.

Muronzi: Last week Industry minister Welshman Ncube said you prematurely published empowerment regulations without the input of the legislative committee in cabinet. Why did you not bring the regulations before the cabinet committee?

Kasukuwere: But I don’t really need to consult with the committee. I am empowered to publish. When I became a Minister of Indigenisation, the Act was already there. What was I supposed to do, sit around and not gazette the regulations? I only consult when there is need.

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