How Will Young People Benefit from the Indigenisation law?

The now active Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment act has brought about mixed feelings amongst Zimbabweans of all walks of life. There are those who have unequivocally thrown their weight behind it, echoing President Mugabe’s sentiments that it is a measure to correct historical imbalances in the ownership of the country’s resources. While some fear that this may be another ploy to loot the already ailing economy thus scaring away potential foreign investors.

Under this law all foreign and locally owned companies give up at least 51 percent ownership to black Zimbabweans. From the 1st of March to the 15th of April every existing business, partnership, association or sole proprietorship with an asset value of US$500 000 or more is expected to submit a report to Youth Development, Empowerment and Indigenisation Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, on how they propose to achieve majority black shareholding within five years.

This act seeks to emulate the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) in South Africa which after the end of Apartheid in 1994 and with the advent of majority rule primarily sought to turn the tide of economic control as big businesses in both the public and private sectors still rested primarily in the hands of white individuals. According to Statistics South Africa, Whites comprise just under 10% of the population, meaning that most of the country’s economy was controlled by a very small minority. BEE was therefore intended to transform the economy to be representative of the demographic make-up of the country. In SA the BEE has managed to empower young people to an extent that South African youths can be counted amongst some of the most successful business people in the world.

One of the troubling aspects of the Zimbabwean version is that after 30 years of independence it recognises being Zimbabwean along racial lines and that the economic imbalances that currently exist in Zimbabwe are still to a greater extent between blacks and whites with the latter still holding on to and benefiting from the injustices of colonialism. Whose rights has the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) been fighting for then over the last two or so decades? Has it failed to a point warranting this drastic measure? In the South African model, all disadvantaged groups before 1994 become constitutionally defined as black, just as they were defined as lesser than white during apartheid. These groups include coloureds, Indians, Chinese, and all those who were discriminated against during the liberation struggle and who fought side by side with black people to gain national independence. Will our law recognise other non white races in Zimbabwe as deserving of these shares too?

This act clearly puts too much power in the hands of one minister who has already shown partisan representation of young people in his cabinet post. In all the years he has been minister of youth, we are yet to be invited to a meeting to be addressed by the minister in Nkayi, Binga, Mberengwa, Beitbridge, Gwanda let alone in Magwegwe or Pumula just to assure his constituents that he is their minister too and that they stand to benefit from his leadership equally. Besides the fact that he runs an empire of his own and obviously has a lot of interest in growing it, Kasukuwere has reportedly admitted to keeping ZANU PF youths as ghost workers in the government payroll, depriving government of millions of dollars needed to increase the salaries of more deserving civil servants like teachers. How then can he be trusted to handle this exercise transparently.

Why is it the Minister, and not a committee of different stakeholders, that is sitting to assess the suitability of these companies to cede 49% of their shares and to whom. The current method in no doubt leaves room for manipulation and abuse as the minister could easily give first preference to his ZANU PF peers at the expense of more deserving candidates. ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo is reported by the SW Radio website to have said while the principle of the law was good, he fears that this could lead to a creation of new minority blacks who will just replace the minority whites. What Matombo misses is that this minority of blacks already exists, what is likely to happen is that they will be made even richer creating an even larger gap between the poor and rich in Zimbabwe.

The other question is how will the youth Minister use his new found power to empower the youths of Zimbabwe most of whom cannot afford to acquire the necessary shares without loans. The likelihood is that the already rich and empowered heavy weights in Harare will grab these shares before anyone has the time to say GO. Besides, which big companies will black people in peripheral areas like Bulawayo, Gweru, Kwekwe, Mutare Victoria Falls, Beit Bridge and others take over seeing as most, if not all of them have either shut down operations in these towns or are headquartered in the capital. What are the chances that these shares will be vied for equally by the rest of the black Zimbabweans in other parts of the country considering that the little wealth that Zimbabwe has generated in the past 3 decades has been used to develop Harare at the expense of other areas? One needs only look at the buildings in Bulawayo where the tallest building still remains the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) building. What changes or developments have been made in places like Beitbridge for instance? Despite being the busiest and most profitable boarder post in the country, it still has no permanent public toilets at the entry point. It has a dust road that has been under construction for the past 10 years with little progress. Gwanda town still has one street and its the nearest town to this lucrative boarder. Whats wrong with this equation? We cannot honestly begin to trust that if 51% company ownership in the country goes to black Zimbabweans things will change. It does not necessarily follow that if black Zimbabweans own a bigger chunk of all companies then they will be empowered. We have had an almost 100% black government for the past 30 years with little or no improvement but instead a deterioration in government infrastructure and service delivery.
Caiphus Chimete’s recent article in the Standard newspaper questions Kasukuwere’s source of wealth. He states that critics of the youth Minister see him as a beneficiary of political patronage who built his empire using his position in the Affirmative Action Group (AAG). The youth minister denies these allegations and says he had these businesses before he got into politics and that he is honestly trying to promote the interests of the majority of Zimbabweans by empowering them.
Well, since youths make up more than 60% of the Zimbabwean population, it is our hope that the “majority” of Zimbabweans that the minister is referring to is the same group whose interests he was appointed to champion through the ministry. It seems even some of his colleagues in ZANU PF are uneasy about this bold, almost to an extant of stupidity, move by the minister. Some politiburo members are reported to have rejected the act which sailed through due to presidential backing. His Deputy, Mr Tamsanqa Mahlangu has also been quoted as distancing himself from the move siding with his principal the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who has described the law as a unilateral move in violation of the spirit of the Global Political Agreement. Mahlangu is quoted as having said that

“Indigenisation and empowerment is not about the (Philip) Chiyangwas and the Supa Mandiwanziras of the world, the Zanu PF middle-class thugs and looters but for the generality of the youth of Zimbabwe across the political divide.”

If the ministry in charge of implementing this act is itself divided on it, what hope is there then of a positive outcome. The divisions in cabinet, the ZANU PF politburo, ministry, business and social sectors are in themselves an indication that not much consultation was made before the unleashing of this law. It is a law that seems to have been designed to benefit a few individuals and not the majority of Zimbabweans as purported.

As young people we have a lot of questions:

What measures have been put in place to ensure that the Ministry of Youth Indigenisation and emporwerment will not abuse its power in this process.?

What quarter will be allocated to young people and women as a means of guaranteeing that they benefit the most from this act as they are the most economically
disadvantaged groups at the moment.?

What financial backing has government put in place in terms of loans to enable economically challenged Zimbabweans the equal opportunity to buy these shares?

Who will peg share prices?

What will government do with shares that have been put on sale but remain un-acquired after the lapse of the five year period?

According to its research, how long will black Zimbabweans need to have maximum shares in companies before foreign or non black Zimbabweans can again be allowed to own maximum shares in locally based companies.?

The sooner these questions are answered the better the understanding youths will gain of this policy which at the moment threatens to tarnish all confidence and faith young people have in the government to truly and fully empower them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: