Divisions rock business sector over Special Economic Zones

Deep divisions among industrialists have emerged over the applicability of the Labour Act in the soon-to-be-established Special Economic Zones (SEZs) with some considering approaching President Robert Mugabe to resolve the issue, businessdigest has learnt.

Kudzai Kuwaza

SEZs are designated geographical regions that operate under special economic regulations different from other areas in the same country. In a desperate bid to woo investors and boost revenue inflows, government will soon introduce SEZs.

To this end, a board led by former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono has been appointed to oversee the setting up and operation of the zones.

Sources told businessdigest this week that business is still to come up with a position on labour regulations governing SEZs because of disagreements over whether or not the Labour Act should apply in the zones.

“There is no agreement on whether the Labour Act should apply in these zones or not,” an insider said. “Some among business who are expecting to operate in these zones do not want the Labour Act to be applied and some of them are planning to engage President Mugabe, through his office to advocate for this.”

Mugabe rejected the SEZs Bill because of a clause that suspended the Labour Act. He signed the Bill after the clause had been removed.

However, sources said, those pushing for the Labour Act to be suspended are planning to appeal to Mugabe to change his stance on the particular clause.

Some sections of business, however, are fiercely opposed to the suspension of the Labour Act in these zones, arguing that it would give companies operating in these zones an unfair advantage over businesses operating outside the SEZs who are bound by the Labour Act.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary-general Japhet Moyo said those fighting for the Labour Act to be suspended in SEZs are fighting a losing war.

“For us as labour, it is foolhardy to go to the President and say I want to make people slaves,” Moyo said. “They are fighting a losing battle and they should be told to go to hell.”

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