The already gaping cracks in Zimbabwe’s unity government have been further widened this week, after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai publicly dismissed the ZANU PF led indiginisation plans for banks and other key sectors.
The Indigenisation Ministry, led by ZANU PF’s Saviour Kasukuwere, last Friday announced that foreign owned firms across different sectors in the country must submit to the country’s economic empowerment laws within the next year. This includes banks, tourism groups and private educational institutions like crèches, primary and secondary schools and institutions of higher learning.
But Morgan Tsvangirai on Tuesday dismissed this notice, saying in a statement that “there is no such government position because no such issue has been discussed and agreed upon by Cabinet.”
“Government has not sanctioned the Minister’s actions that are a threat to investment in the country. The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act does not empower the Minister to act and to project an image of a voracious government keen to compulsorily grab almost all institutions and companies in the country,” the statement from Tsvangirai’s office said.
The statement continued: “We reiterate the position that the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe has executive powers and the Constitution of Zimbabwe bestows him with the authority to oversee and supervise ‘policy formulation and implementation’. The government forum that deals with implementation of government policy is the Council of Ministers, which has not discussed or approved the purported government position captured in the public notice.”
The statement warned that anyone who ‘grabbed’ the assets of the foreign owned groups listed in the Indigenisation Ministry’s notice, “would be doing so unlawfully and without the mandate of the Inclusive Government.”
The indigenisation laws require foreign owned firms in the country to hand over 51% of their shareholding to indigenous Zimbabweans, and so far the campaign has hit the focussed on the mining industry. International mining houses like Impala Platinum have already submitted to the empowerment laws, signing over a 51% share handover deal.
The laws have strained relations in the fragile unity government, with the MDC-T warning that the campaign will damage Zimbabwe’s investment future and only benefit those in ZANU PF.
However Western governments and their surrogates have contends that the campaign has little to do with real empowerment and all to do with securing ZANU PF’s hold on the country, especially with a crucial election expected in the coming months.
Economist Masimba Kuchera told reporters on Tuesday that the indigenisation drive is an election “trump card” for ZANU PF because it is very popular among Zimbabweans.
“The country is in full electioneering mode and the best for some people in ZANU PF is to say they will deliver indigenisation. So this has serious political under tones,” Kuchera explained.
He also said that there are other options, in terms of indigenisation policies, which would be more beneficial for ordinary Zimbabweans, saying that the current plans have little to do with real empowerment. He criticised the current indigenisation drive for assuming that people will have the money and know-how to become a majority owner of foreign owned companies, when for many Zimbabweans this is not the case.
“There needs to be real education and realistic empowerment plans…I agree that it should be a non partisan and depoliticised process for it to be successful,” Kuchera said.