INDIGENISATION minister Patrick Zhuwao is forging ahead with plans to revoke operating licenses of companies that are not compliant with the country’s empowerment laws by April 1.
Speaking on the sidelines of an indigenisation breakfast clinic in Harare on Wednesday, Zhuwao said his legal research indicates workers can sue companies and directors in their individual capacities for damages if they lose their jobs as a result of poor management.
“I have received queries from worker organisations and I have told them it is the fiduciary duty of the directors to cater for the interests of stakeholders. I have sought legal opinion from three lawyers and I will seek from other two lawyers to make sure our case is very strong and I will support any employee that is rendered jobless by the irresponsibility of directors or managers to comply to make sure they go after the directors both in their institutional and personal capacity,” said Zhuwao, apparently showing he will make good on his word to cancel licenses of non-compliant players.
The minister said he is unperturbed by threats that non-compliant companies will shut down.
“If you want to close down, you can close down. But I have three legal opinions which are talking about the fiduciary responsibility of directors to safeguard interests of stakeholders including workers. If they willfully disobey the law, workers have a right to go after them. The workers can go after you and your Mercedes-Benz. These directors have beautiful cars and houses so they are actually putting themselves and their assets at risk,” Zhuwao said.
“I know for a fact anybody who has run a business will never let that business collapse just by being stubborn.”
Asked on whether the cabinet decision was not tantamount to shutting down companies, Zhuwao said; “It is like when you own a vehicle and you did not pay road access. You own the car but you can’t drive it on our roads.”
Zhuwao said the government would not extend the deadline on grounds the companies have been given enough time to comply.
The minister said companies can plead for leniency through extension of deadlines and other related special arrangements for compliance although he hinted chances are slim.
“If things are not in order you have two days to tell us, but after that its game over,” said Zhuwao.
He would not be drawn to give a list of big companies that are yet to comply, referring all questions to line ministers.
“The story is at the line ministries and that’s where you should go and get the information,” he said.