Is Kasukuwere that bad?

HARARE - Saviour  Kasukuwere, Zimbabwe’s minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment stands accused of being anti foreign investment, fascist and thuggery, due to the black economic agenda he is currently prosecuting.

The resentment and criticism has come more from within than outside Zimbabwe. The fundamental question is — is Kasukuwere and his empowerment mission that bad?

One of the main attributes that characterises third world politics is that political actors are divided into two; the saint full good boys and the bad boys.

The weakness with this attitude is actions, policies and ideologies articulated by these two contracting sets of political actors are not intellectually-interrogated so that the proper comprehension is procured.

Rather, emotions dwarfs cognitive thinking and proper examination of situation is defeated.

Affirmative Action (also known as Black economic empowerment) was coined by USA’s president John F Kennedy through Executive Order No 10925 to ensure that those previously underrepresented are accorded equal opportunities.

This entailed certain privileges being accorded to those previously oppressed to bring them at par with those previously privileged.  

This concept has been adopted mutatis mutandis in Malaysia under a programme called Bumiputra, BB — BEE in South Africa, and Citizen Empowerment in Zambia.

Similar programmess have also been undertaken in Botswana, Brazil, Sweden and many other countries. In Zimbabwe, indigenisation and economic empowerment is protected in the current Lancaster House Constitution section 23(g).

Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act 14 of 2007 together with its attendant Statutory Instruments continue to be ruthlessly criticised mainly from the interpretation perspective.

Any law has two basic characteristics: the content and the application. I will not encumber to make another interpretation but rather to argue from how this law has been applied to date.

Several companies submitted their indigenisation plans to Kasukuwere detailing how they were going to comply with the 51 percent equity rule. Majority of these companies sought special dispensation on time frames and empowerment credits.

Zimplats, Old Mutual, Caledonia Mining, Schweppes, Mimosa are some of the blue chip companies that have already started to comply.

Equity is being redistributed to company employees, management and communities they exploit the resources from. Despite all the noise, less than 100 companies have been formally indigenised.

Majority of the cases are still pending.

Evidence on the ground shows the equity re-distribution exercise has lowered the animosity between these companies and their publics (employees, management and surrounding communities) and in turn improved relations between companies and their employees.

It’s now guaranteed that another Marikana will not happen at Zimplats.  Community re-investment has been rekindled in terms of construction of key infrastructure like roads, schools, clinics, etc.

There is no company that has closed after being properly indigenised.

This is credited to the indigenisation and empowerment agenda that is making it compulsory for foreign business entities to embark on community re-investment programmes.

The Youth Fund has enhanced the Old Mutual brand. The new Employee Share Ownership Trusts are now giving hope to employees to now borrow independently for mortgaging.

If Standard Chartered Bank employees owned 10 percent of the bank shares, they would not be the lowest paid bankers in the country.

What really dominates our media are unfounded fears, innuendos, puffery, threats and intimidation that do not have foundation in the current Indigenisation laws.

Suffice to say though, that the law requires continuous review in line with the changing macro environment but the guiding principle must remain unchanged. Stakeholders must continue to make their inputs.

Kasukuwere must be judged according to how he is actually applying the law to non-indigenous companies not to the number of nicknames he is given.

Companies formally indigenised to date are now more stable and secure. The question of ownership has been fully settled.

Whether by design or accident, Kasukuwere has so far, avoided to give significant shareholding to a few black elite as initially feared.

He must continue to make it mandatory that in all indigenisation processes, the principle of broad-based economic empowerment is upheld.

Abundant caution as has been exercised so far and must continue to be exercised.

It is impossible to endeavour to have all of Zimbabwe to have share certificates.

More effort must be made towards the empowerment of Small to Medium Enterprise (SMEs) through compulsory linkages with not only non-indigenous entities but with government institutions.

Kasukuwere must ensure government obeys its own laws by ensuring that government departments, quasi government entities and parastatals buy goods and services from indigenous SMEs.

This will empower hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans in a very short time.

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