Will Indigenisation Translate To Economic Empowerment? – Takudzwanashe Mundenga

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Under The Analytic Microscope – By Takudzwanashe Mundenga

TakuIn spite of the terms of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act that are crystal clear on how resources are supposed to be redistributed to the underprivileged, the historically marginalised and the disadvantaged groups, the policy has turned out to the contemporary Zimbabwe to be paper tiger that is totally harmless to misconduct by the elite. Corrupt individuals has taken over the process to empower themselves, thus vindicating indigenisation, but rather without economic empowerment of the majority. Minimal accountability and transparency surrounding the indigenisation policy is a lubricant of empowerment of the already empowered and it has to be nipped in the bud.

In 2013, the election campaigns held by the ruling party were under the theme: “Indigenise, Empower, Develop and Create Employment” which made their manifesto more attractive than that of the main rival, the Movement for Democratic Change that was merely focused on foreign intervention in resuscitating the economy. Up till then, the expectations of myriads of Zimbabweans both home and in the diaspora are still hinged on the indigenous, home-grown solutions that ZANU PF promised to deliver about 2 years ago.

Before cruising into the brass tacks to be addressed it is essential to define some key words that will appear recurrently in this article. According to the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act Chapter 14:33, “indigenisation means a deliberate involvement of indigenous Zimbabweans in the economic activities of the country, to which hitherto they had no access, so as to ensure the equitable ownership of the nation’s resources.” In the same vein, “an indigenous Zimbabwean means any person who, before the 18th April, 1980, was disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on the grounds of his or her race, and any descendant of such person, and includes any company, association, syndicate or partnership of which indigenous Zimbabweans form the majority of the members or hold the controlling interest.”

President Mugabe insists that the programme is necessary to economically empower the country’s historically disadvantaged black majority though the opposition political parties caution that the drive shuns away foreign direct investments (FDIs). Critically speaking, it would be unfair for the revolutionary comrades and cadres to eternally ignore the grievances of the liberation struggle that were to possess freedom and freedom in abundance. Economic freedom weighed the same as political independence therefore indigenisation was an inevitable destiny.

Zimbabwe has achieved a milestone in indigenisation which is a notable exploit towards the development of any particular country. Since black economic empowerment became the core value of the ruling party, the world witnessed an eye-catching land reform and Africanization of foreign-run business entities. However the part of economic empowerment of the majority is still questionable. Apparently the political bigwigs and the economically powerful gained the most at the expense of the common Zimbabweans whose plight evolved from the events that happened before the attainment of independence.

“The indigenisation programme should benefit the majority of the people of this country,” Gideon Gono, the former governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) was quoted on a press conference on black empowerment. “The programme must be transparent. Indigenisation shouldn’t be used for indiscipline, for economic banditry or for the cake going to the same people who benefited yesterday,” he said.

Even after 8 years of implementing the Africanization of mines and businesses, unbeknown to most Zimbabweans is what the indigenisation policy stands for. It is like a hodgepodge or a creature from outer space. The majority think it is the government’s technique of punishing multinational companies by demanding 51% shares from them. Usually people witness the transfer of ownership from a foreigner to a native, and then the next thing is liquidation and closure of a once flourishing company. This writer believes it is actually challenging to empower people who are sunk in doldrums of confusion of what is going on. Information dissemination has to be extended by relevant government ministries and parastatals.

Mismanagement and corruption at Community Share Ownership Trusts (CSOTs) is raising more questions than answers. They are often pointed in corruption allegations and scandals. They are accused of benefiting a minority of already rich individuals at the expense of the community. Therefore their conduct must be revisited.

According to the state-owned newspaper, The Herald, the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) President Chamu Chiwanza accused some parastatal boards of frustrating the indigenisation drive and urged the government to fire them. Recently, he told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Empowerment that the State Procurement Board (SPB), the Rent Board and the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB) should be relieved of their duties.

“The Tender Board is working to empower a few; there are new entrepreneurs in the country. We have cartels in this country which are benefitting at the expense of legitimate business people.” Chiwanza accuse d the Tender Board of corruption saying that tenders for a number of institutions such as power utility ZESA Holdings, were always awarded to the same people.

One method of economic empowerment is to create employment to the natives. The National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board’s mandate is to facilitate implementation of the indigenisation laws; however the board is tolerating foreign investors mainly the Chinese operating in violation of the indigenisation laws when they are awarded tenders.

Instead of appreciating and promoting local manufacturers and industries in their project area, the Chinese bring their own inputs from scratch even those which they can procure from the locale, which is a direct contravention of the indigenisation law. Chiwanza decried them saying, “The Chinese bring in everything including door frames when they are given contracts. Is the indigenisation law really still in place?”

It is an infallible truth that indigenisation is a noble idea compared to a laissez faire that fuels anarchy by multinational corporations and foreign investors through tax dodging and repatriation of profits. Nonetheless we still question the economic empowerment of the policy which is taking long to materialize.

Takudzwanashe Mundenga is an undergraduate at Midlands State University, studying a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies Honours Degree. For feedback and comments please feel free to write him on [email protected]