Zimplats deal exposes generational disconnect

HARARE - The Zimplats Indigenisation (ZI) transaction has exposed the  disconnection between the minds of key policymakers as well as the generational challenge that faces Zimbabwe.

It is evident from the construction of the debate that there is a serious fault line in the understanding of the need and value of altering the member register of companies as a means of addressing ghosts of the past.

On the one hand, Jonathan Moyo contends that anyone who questions the model used to realise objectives of the indigenisation programme is motivated by a desire to scuttle it.

On the other hand, Gideon Gono believes that a market approach that seeks to create “smart partnerships” between productive companies and the aspiring indigenous entrepreneurs will help reduce the frontiers of poverty and unemployment.

When I wrote my first book entitled: When Minds Meet, I was concerned that there appears to be a far much serious problem in Africa than the ills occasioned by colonialism and that is the inability of African minds to meet not only to debate but develop tactics and strategies that respond to  challenges of the time and not circumstances of the past.

It must be admitted that the minds of President Mugabe and Savior.Kasukuwere have yet to meet.

Kasukuwere was appointed by Mugabe and yet from recent comments by Mugabe on the design, structure and financing of ZI transaction it would appear that their minds are ideologically and conceptually estranged.

Mugabe belongs to a different generation and his mind is shaped and defined by experiences that Kasukuwere can only imagine.

So when he talks of colonialism and imperialism he does so from personal experience.

The fact that times have changed is not evident from the views that he generously shares with the world.
What does he believe in?  Many have not really understood the man and believe that his beliefs, if any, are opportunistic solely aimed at power entrenchment.

On the question of indigenisation, his views are diametrically opposed to those contained in the ZI transaction term sheet that Kasukuwere signed on January 11, 2013 on behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe and not Zanu PF.

If one were to encroach into Mugabe’s mind, what would one expect to find?  

I have no doubt that one would find a mind troubled by the past and its consequences on the condition of African people.

To Mugabe the link between black poverty, inequality and unemployment; and racism is a direct and causal one.

The humiliation and economic subjugation of native Zimbabweans by settlers, although it is part of a past that is fading with the passage of time, is considered to be the root cause of contemporary problems that confront Zimbabweans.

The birth of any person marks an entry into a world with no inevitable outcomes but a series of negotiations for a better life.

Human beings are assigned names and through socialisation acquire character and personality.

Companies play a significant part in facilitating transactions that then bring food to the table.

The role of firms and their actors in transforming lives is less understood by Mugabe’s generation because the minds of revolutionaries were focussed on asserting the civil rights of the majority.

The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act was informed by circumstances and facts that existed before independence and, therefore, it is a difficult mission to locate the indigenisation debate outside the context of pain of the past.

It would be a fatal exercise to attempt to convince Mugabe that companies like natural persons have rights separate and distinct from the holders of shares in such companies.

His generation believes that Zimbabwe belongs to an identifiable class of persons and, therefore, God had a secret covenant with that class as to who must benefit from the exploitation of the creator’s resources.

He believes that if he were to retire before the demon of colonialism is exorcised he would have betrayed Zimbabweans and so his quest to remain in power must be understood in a historical context.

Whether the indigenisation programme is the best solution to challenges of today becomes irrelevant when facts on the ground show that even under Mugabe’s control white Zimbabweans have not fared badly in terms of the promise of a better life.

The fact that Kasukuwere proceeded to negotiate a deal that on the face of it appears to be at variance with the views of his master goes a long way towards exposing the complexity of the indigenisation debate.

The ZI transaction has provided a unique opportunity to open a conversation of sober minds on how best Zimbabwe can move forward rather than remain arrested by its painful past.

Even if Mugabe were to win the elections, it would not change his views on what matters.

He believes that for any nation to move forward it must lean backwards first for the past has created the present and it is his cardinal responsibility to remedy the past through the State that he must control presumably until death.

The design and construction of the ZI transaction term sheet is based on market principles.

The real scandal involves the Brainworks angle.  

Even Kasukuwere would agree that the appointment of Brainworks was not in order and is inconsistent with the values and principles that informed the struggle.

However, the real point of departure for me is the location of companies in the battle for progress.
I have no doubt that Mugabe would agree that his government issued a birth certificate to Zimplats.

For clarity, Zimplats stands for Zimbabwe Platinum confirming that the founders of the company knew that the platinum in question was located in the territory of Zimbabwe.

The company is, therefore, a citizen of Zimbabwe and will remain as such.

There is no doubt that even a fool would accept that a child of two Chinese parents in Beijing, for example, can make the choice to be Zimbabwean in terms of the Constitution and laws of Zimbabwe.

Once that child becomes Zimbabwean, the identity of the parents does not change but the nationality of the child changes to reflect the choice.

By accepting to be Zimbabwean, the child’s parents do not have an obligation to be Zimbabwean as well.
The birth certificate of Zimplats is and will always be Zimbabwean.  

I should like to believe that Zimplats’ roots are Zimbabwean.

The company was not born before independence and, therefore, has no personal knowledge of colonialism.  It is, indeed, a born-free and one of Mugabe’s children.

It pays taxes and employs Zimbabweans.

It did not steal prospecting and mining licences.  

The ground that it holds was not stolen but granted willingly by Mugabe’s government.

Like the Chinese child who acquires voluntarily Zimbabwean citizenship, Zimplats did not exist before birth as a citizen of Zimbabwe and it is common cause that for it to exist it must have complied with the citizenship laws of Zimbabwe.

The Companies Act of Zimbabwe provides for the registration of companies.  

What is registered is the company and its shareholders have no obligation to be Zimbabwean just like the Chinese child.

It would be a sad day when the Chinese child is reminded daily that he or she does not belong to Zimbabwe after complying with its laws.

If Zimplats was a natural person, what would be on its mind when the issue of indigenisation is raised?

Should the indigenisation laws apply to persons like Zimplats that were born under Mugabe’s watch?

Zimplats, the Zimbabwean company, was granted a right to prospect and mine legally fully cognisant of the fact that it was a citizen of the country irrespective of the address of its parents.

By incorporating in Zimbabwe, the company agreed to comply with the laws of the country.

The question that needs to be addressed openly and transparently is whether the ZI transaction threatens or violates core constitutional values such as constitutional supremacy, the rule of law, the doctrine of separation of powers and independence of the courts.

In taking an oath as president of Zimbabwe, Mugabe must have understood his obligations even to persons like Zimplats.

If it can happen to Zimplats, it also can happen to SMM and ultimately no one is safe.

Citizenship is not free for it comes with obligations as well as rights.  

No allegation has been made that the company has violated any laws of Zimbabwe that would call for the reversal of rights granted to it.

It was granted a right to mine platinum and that is precisely what the company is doing.

The company did not exist at independence and when the prospecting order was granted it had no idea that the platinum hidden beneath the earth’s surface was in abundance and that more importantly like the government officers responsible for granting the permit had no idea of the value of the resource.

Like a gambler the company risked capital to establish the resource only to now be penalised for the enterprising effort.

Had the company chosen to engage in farming on the same land, the ministry of Indigenisation would not have been relevant.

Is it, therefore, in the national interest to target citizens selectively? What does the future hold for Zimbabwe?

Yes people can be excited and end up listening to their voices forgetting that the future belongs to builders and not extortion experts.

Zimplats evidently had no choice and we are all culpable for choosing to remain silent while new brains are at work undermining the very values and principles that informed the liberation struggle. - Mutumwa Mawere

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