INDIGENISATION has become a buzzword, one of the most discussed topics in Zimbabwe together with such subjects as President Robert Mugabe’s succession and elections, besides popular topics like sports, mainly football, and social issues.
But is this controversial piece of legislation a panacea to Zimbabwe’s serious economic problems manifested through structural decay, the debt situation, liquidity challenges, low growth and high unemployment?
Two weeks ago, Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere published fresh empowerment rules targeting finance and eight other sectors.
In General Notice 280/2, gazetted on Friday, June 29, the minister, citing sections 5(4) and 5A(4) of the Indigenisation and Empowerment (General) Regulations as amended as its enabling legal framework (the legality of these sections are questionable anyway), lays down rules for the implementation of indigenisation in the nine sectors.
The areas affected include finance, tourism, education and sport, arts and entertainment, engineering and construction, energy, services, telecoms and transport and the motor industry –– a vast swathe of the economy.
This brought back the debate on indigenisation which is now one of the critical issues facing the nation.
The country remains in desperate need of foreign direct investment to boost the limited economic recovery registered thus far, and the indigenisation regulations have raised a red flag on all efforts being made to get Zimbabwe out of the woods.
Frequently, we awake to screaming headlines of stories telling us which economic sector is in the indigenisation firing line, leaving us wondering what will be next after all key sectors of the economy –– including schools –– have been targeted for indigenisation.
The indigenisation regulations demand that all companies operating in Zimbabwe must surrender 51% of their shares or equities to “indigenous Zimbabweans”, a racist-loaded term meaning blacks and thus excluding citizens of other races, including those who did not benefit from the colonial order.
Come to think of it, 51% is a pass mark many students would want to achieve in their examinations.
Let’s embark on a short journey of the imagination.
Imagine how much progressive our country would be if the government could deliver just 51% on its mandate. Imagine if employment levels were around 51%. If our ministers actually used 51% of their brains, especially Kasukuwere, Zimbabwe would be such a peaceful and prosperous country.
But the problem is that a fair mark like 51% has been adopted as a policy framework by slipshod leaders and implemented in a crippling way which will neither empower local people nor boost economic growth.
Former government spin-doctor and Zanu PF politburo member, Jonathan Moyo, usually accuses his rivals or critics of approaching issues with an open mouth and a shut mind. As insulting as this may sound, no phrase can better describe the behaviour of some government officials, particularly Kasukuwere.
Kasukuwere really approaches indigenisation with a very wide mouth and completely shut mind. Since the indigenisation campaign started, the minister has embarked on a noisy crusade trying to force foreign-owned companies to surrender 51% of their stakes to Zanu PF cronies and shady entities which have no money to pay for their equities, meaning indigenisation is actually expropriation in disguise.
Mining companies were forced to cede the majority of their shares to some bogus community trusts whose trustees remain as opaque as their origin and functions. Having managed to get some mines to comply, Kasukuwere has gone on to act like a “Super Minister” by encroaching on colleagues’ portfolios, targeting different sectors, mainly banking.
In Kasukuwere, government does have a Trojan Horse. But the trouble is that the minister is not clued up and does not have a good track record by any stretch of the imagination.
Kasukuwere is a failed banker, having presided over the demise of Genesis Investment Bank in which he was a significant shareholder. So now he wants to mastermind the failure of the entire financial sector by indigenising banks when the institutions are already under the control of locals.
In the first place, how do you indigenise a bank or what exactly is he trying to do? Does he want to indigenise thebrands and confidence in them? For that is what banking is all about.
Does Kasukuwere want to take over the buildings of foreign-owned banks, take over their computer systems, chairs and desks or does he want the power to pick and install new management and boards of directors as well as to set corporate strategy? What exactly does he want to do?
As if it’s not enough, Kasukuwere also wants to indigenise private schools –– a decision that has now been reversed. Quite clearly, this indigenisation policy has lost credibility and direction, thanks mainly to Kasukuwere who would do better if only he could use 51% of his brain!