INDIGENISATION and Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere has slammed Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono for criticising government regulations compelling foreign shareholders to cede a 51% stake to blacks in their businesses saying the central bank boss is exploiting the issue to “seek relevance”.
Kasukuwere told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday that he is not going to accept what he described as “megaphone advice” from Gono.
He also threw down a challenge to Gono saying his ministry would be approaching the central bank with a view to re-opening indigenous banks closed under the governor’s administration.
Gono closed several black-owned banks when he took office in 2003 accusing them of reneging on their core banking business and engaging in speculative behaviour, among other allegations.
“We have seen the criticism from the Reserve Bank governor this week again and will only take note of (him) when the governor stops his megaphone criticism,” he said. “When they are ready to talk we will listen. But in the meantime we will not listen to this kind of megaphone criticism. We remain determined to empower our people and we will not accept such criticism from individuals seeking relevance.”
Gono, who was the key government advisor on economic policies before the formation of the inclusive government, was rendered powerless by the introduction of multi-currencies last January. His powers are set to be trimmed further if President Robert Mugabe assents to the Reserve Bank Amendment Bill, which has been passed by parliament.
Kasukuwere said his ministry would soon be meeting with parastatal heads and hear their contributions and engage the central bank to hear how best indigenous banks Gono closed can be reopened.
The minister’s comments come after Gono attacked government’s empowerment policy for the second consecutive week.
Gono says he is against the “content, style and approach” of the policy. He added that he had consulted with the principals – President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara – and accused those engendering this policy of being unpatriotic.
Gono said: “I stand by what I said in October 2007 and what I also said last week. I see no reason to shift positions. We should move away from allowing political expediency to get the better of our sense and sensibilities.
“I repeat: There should not be and will not be farm-type jambanja (gang violence) this time around as we indigenise and empower our people. We are all witnesses to what can inadvertently happen when that is allowed to take place and we cannot be a people who do not learn from yesterday’s implementation shortcomings.”
Gono added that: “Fortunately, all players who have the country at heart, including my principals, are all seized with the matter and assured the governor that there will be no such thing.”
He claimed in the interview with the Financial Gazette that work would be underway to “re-look” at some of the clauses.
Already business organisations have raised concern over words such as “cede” in the regulations arguing that the word denotes giving away for “free”. Instead, businesses want “cede” substituted with “sell”.
Gono said: “I have also been assured that work is currently underway to re-look at some of the not-so-flexible clauses of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act so as to make them more responsive to the dictates of modern finance as well as to sharpen their modes of intervention and transparency when it comes to empowering our youths, empowering the women, who make up to 52% of the population.”
He blasted the regulations saying a “one-size-fits-all and indiscriminate” empowerment policy will not work for non-agricultural sectors of the economy.
Gono added that: “All I am arguing for is order, order and more order! For the record, this governor should be the last one to be accused of being anti-empowerment or indigenisation as my record in these areas speaks for itself. So anybody wanting to politic by suggesting that the governor is being too emotional or that I am speaking against my principals, is simply engaging in a game of intellectual dishonesty and pettiness akin to siblings fighting for their mother’s attention.”
The latest standoff between Gono and Kasukuwere mirrors deep divisions in government pitting those fighting to block the empowerment policies and those rallying behind Kasukuwere and empowerment.
A senior Zanu PF official who supports the indigenisation policy labelled Gono an “attention-seeking lame-duck governor” keen on scoring political points “whenever he gets an opportunity”.
Others are keenly waiting to pick up various business opportunities that would emerge if government follows through on its wealth redistribution policy.
The empowerment regulations were gazetted on January 29 this year to compel white-owned businesses to cede 51% stakes to blacks and previously disadvantaged groups.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced that Kasukuwere gazetted the regulations without consultation rendering the pronouncement “null and void”.
Industry Minister Welshman Ncube also said Kasukuwere did not seek approval from the cabinet committee on legislation saying he had “prematurely” announced the regulations.
Kasukuwere defended himself in an interview with the Independent early this month saying he did not need to consult the committee.
“I am empowered to publish (regulations). When I became 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,” he said.
The Zanu PF politburo and Mugabe have approved the empowerment drive which has caused investors to rush for the exits.