THE ministry responsible for the indigenisation exercise, launced in 2007 by the then Zanu PF government, two weeks ago published another set of regulations that would, if implemented, have effectively nationalised all firms in the country. The new regulations give companies a year to comply and sets out penalties for non-compliance. Included in the new sweeping attempt at indigenisation are the 100 or so private schools in the country.
In some quarters there was instant panic, but what was generally impressive is very few seemed to take the action seriously. A headmaster of a private school claimed he had not even heard about it and had not been contacted by anxious parents or board members. However, eTV of South Africa took it seriously, running a detailed clip on its main news covering the new regulations and the threats they posed. Just what is the real position on this new thrust to the controversial empowerment drive by Zanu PF elements in the unity government?
First we need to understand the origins of this indigenisation drive. In 2007, the Zanu PF government came to parliament with the new Act. At the time the MDC held a minority position in parliament and vigorously opposed the legislation. After a lengthy, bruising fight the MDC withdrew before the vote, knowing that had it stayed it would simply have been out voted. The party chose to make a firm statement that this new legislation did not have its support in any way.
The implementation of the Act was however overtaken by subsequent events — the signing of the Kariba agreement in September 2007, the subsequent electoral reforms and then the 2008 elections in which Zanu was defeated, but was able to manipulate the result and prevent total transfer of power. Instead in February 2009 Zanu PF found itself in a Government of National Unity (GNU) with the MDC formations in which it has been forced to share power for the first time since 1980.
It is important for people to understand the nature of this GNU arrangement — it left President Robert Mugabe (even though he was defeated in the elections) as head of state, chairman of cabinet and the Commander of the armed forces. But what many do not appreciate is the new cabinet was obliged to make all decisions on a consensual basis: the MDC held a majority in cabinet but could not use its majority by voting on issues pending cabinet decision. This has been a recipe for deadlock and has now reached a point where government is almost paralysed.
In this arrangement, the Prime Minister (Morgan Tsvangirai) is in charge of running government and all ministers, irrespective of their party affiliation, are required to report to him. He is responsible for government policy implementation and has complete power in this respect. This means that any major new legislation or regulations must go through the cabinet system first, before being implemented under the supervision and direction of the prime minister.
The attempt by Zanu PF to circumvent this system to implement the Indigenisation Act of 2007 can only be carried out lawfully with support of government. Once the regulations giving the Act force and effect are passed through cabinet, where they would require the support of MDC formations, they would then come into use supervised overall by Tsvangirai, under whose direction the line minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, would be required to operate.
The reality is that the regulations first published in December 2010, again last year and now this month have never been through the cabinet system — they did not go to the cabinet committee on new legislation and were not given cabinet authority and approval. In addition, the Parliamentary Legal Committee has ruled that the new regulations violate elements of the constitution and are therefore illegal.
Tsvangirai’s first response to this development in 2011 was to say the regulations are not legally binding and therefore have no force or effect. However, Zanu PF has been trying to force compliance. Indigenisation minister Kasukuwere has been saying he is the minister responsible for the Act, he has the right to implement it and the regulations, despite their illegality, were binding.
It is now two years since this roadshow was launched. Its objectives are clear; like the so- called “land reform” exercise it has nothing to do with reform in any sense. It is a political platform for a phantom election. Its secondary purpose is to derail economic recovery by discouraging foreign investment and encouraging capital flight. Failing to recognise the much diminished power and authority of Zanu PF in the GNU, the private sector has reacted as if the game has not changed; investment has dried up, the stock market has collapsed to low levels and local capital is fleeing the country in significant quantities. The recovery of the economy is stalled; wages are stagnant while Zanu PF blames the MDC for the problems.
This drive to halt recovery is seen in several other areas: failure to get the National Railways of Zimbabwe back on the rails, attempts to block the Essar and Green Fuel deals and the total collapse of Air Zimbabwe are all deliberate Zanu PF ploys.
But what of the indigenisation circus? The recently published regulations really do expose Kasukuwere for the clown he is. The regulations are clearly illegal, violate the constitution and have not gone through the required procedure to become law. Tsvangirai simply advised the target groups to ignore the regulations and Kasukuwere, and carry on as normal. The reality is that despite all the rhetoric, not a single firm has been indigenised since 2010. One of the main targets, the mining industry, has said the state — or anyone else — can have 51% of all mines tomorrow. They would be delighted to get US$7 billion in cash and then have the new partners (whoever they are) fund 51% of all new developments, or see their equity stake diminished rapidly. It is all nonsense; we do not have the expertise and technology to run these firms and we certainly do not have the money after Zanu PF wiped out all savings and reserves of any kind in the decade up to 2008.
In addition to the debacle that this represents, it is not even going to help Zanu PF in any election that comes in the next 12-18 months. The people know Zanu PF promises are just that; empty promises that mean nothing to them as individuals, families or communities. Zanu PF promised land but all we have left are derelict farms, no jobs and imported food at high prices. Now the party promises us shares for nothing: they are trying to deceive us again and we would be fools to be taken for a ride again, and watch what is left of our broken economy go down the tubes.
Eddie Cross is MDC-T MP for Bulawayo South.