Editor’s memo: Kasukuwere must abandon gunboat diplomacy

INDIGENISATION and Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere was in a combative mood last week, threatening to shut down 9 000 companies for failing to submit their indigenisation plans in line with the law.

It was reported in The Sunday Mail that only 480 out of 9 557 companies had bothered to submit their empowerment proposals to Kasukuwere’s ministry.

Among the companies accused are mines; and as has become the norm, they were accused of dragging their heels to buy time and at the same time sabotaging the empowerment drive.

What was astounding was Kasukuwere’s summersault. He had for many weeks told those who cared to listen that the empowerment drive had received overwhelming support from the same firms he is now threatening with closure. Was it a dissembling act under the guise of social engineering to hoodwink the nation?

It is common cause that our empowerment regulations have been widely condemned as racism in reverse and have caused serious ructions in the fragile inclusive government.

Under intense pressure, characterised by a bearish run on the local bourse, would-be investors’ concerns and opposition in cabinet, government (especially the Zanu PF component) capitulated and unwillingly agreed to review the noxious indigenous regulations with a view to come up with acceptable rules to, among other things, balance indigenisation and foreign investment.

Even the embattled central bank governor Gideon Gono made a clarion call as early as October 2007 that a “fine balance should be struck between the objectives of indigenisation and the need to attract foreign capital”, advice which was sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.
Opponents of the regulations argued that we could not have a one-size-fits-all indigenisation policy and that the drive should not be rushed to avoid consequences like those which followed the chaotic land reform programme of 2000.

While government should be applauded that it has agreed that indigenisation thresholds should be sector-specific, it is disturbing that before those thresholds have been agreed to, Kasukuwere is stampeding companies to submit their empowerment plans.

Issuing threats does not move the empowerment drive forward and Kasukuwere should know better! If 9 000 companies are shut by the stroke of a pen, what will remain of our economy, which over the past year has been limping out of its vegetative state? Where will that leave our unemployment rate and poverty?

Retrogressive thinking has been a major obstacle to this country’s prosperity.

Kasukuwere should abandon his gunboat diplomacy and engage the companies. We need a win-win situation and we should not hurry this process if empowerment is to emerge victorious. His zero-sum approach, no matter from where you look, will have far-reaching social, political and economic effects which most of us would shudder to think of as the memories of the chaos caused by price slash in 2007 and hyper-inflation are still fresh in our minds.

Every sane Zimbabwean supports economic indigenisation, but not a drive calculated to kill industry and commerce as happened to agriculture.

Constantine Chimakure