WHILE government is trying to improve the ease of doing business in the country, the controversial Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act remains an elephant in the living room as officials continue to interpret the law differently confusing potential investors in the process.
Kudzai Kuwaza/Taurai Mangudhla
Lack of clarity and consistence in implementing the failed indigenisation policy has contributed to investors shunning Zimbabwe.
Although some government ministers, among them Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, want the law toned down while others want it repealed, newly-appointed Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwao has expressed reservations over changes in the law.
Zhuwao, who took over from Chris Mushohwe after a recent cabinet reshuffle, opposes the decentralisation of the indigenisation process which mandates ministers to approve proposals that fall under their portfolios.
The new measures were announced early this year in a bid to woo investors who expressed concerns over the law compelling foreigners to cede 51% stake to locals.
Government has made amendments to the Act, primarily giving line ministers power to approve indigenisation plans for sectors under their purview, with the Indigenisation ministry only issuing compliance certificates on the recommendations of line ministers after their assessments.
Sources in the Indigenisation ministry said Zhuwao had expressed reservations over this particular clause.
When contacted to clarify this, among other questions on Wednesday, Zhuwao asked for questions to be sent to him by e-mail. He, however, had not responded to the e-mailed questions at the time of going to press.
Mushohwe, according to sources, was also reportedly unhappy with what he perceived as interference from other ministers in the operations of his former ministry.
Investors have regularly voiced their worries over inconsistencies in the policy framework with various top government officials making contradictory public pronouncements and even clashing over the Act. Former indigenisation minister Francis Nhema’s once complained that there were “too many cooks” managing the programme.
Remarks made by Zhuwao in an interview that foreign direct investment (FDI) could co-exist with the current indigenisation laws have caused further confusion as it is in stark contrast to pronouncements by his colleagues in government.
“Why is it that there is a feeling that indigenisation and FDI are opposites? They are not necessarily opposites. I believe indigenisation can work quite well with FDI,” said Zhuwao before accusing some ministers of being pro-white people.
“I think we just need to educate some of our ignorant colleagues some of whom actually occupy high-level positions. They need to go beyond accepting what a white man tells them,” Zhuwao said.
“Some of these people are educated to the level of having PhDs; so they need to go beyond what somebody who has come in as a foreigner or somebody who has come in trying to negotiate the best possible deal for themselves is saying and look at the facts.
“It is really a shame that we have got people in high places who are really antagonistic to facts.”
Senior government officials from Mugabe to the bottom have expressed contradictory and clashing interpretations of the policy.