Indigenisation rocks tourism sector

HARARE - Tourism minister Walter Mzembi has warned players in the hospitality sector to comply with the indigenisation policy or risk losing their operating licences.

Mzembi said the sector is not exempted from the law — which compels all foreign-owned companies operating in Zimbabwe to cede at 51 percent of their shareholding to black locals.

“This should serve as a warning bell to players in the tourism sector. Indigenisation also applies to the sector,” he said.

“This policy is going to be implemented through licensing so businesses should fix their structure and comply because they run the risk of losing their businesses,” Mzembi said.

He said the tourism industry players should immediately forward their compliance plans to authorities “in order to maintain stability in their businesses.

They should pre-empt the exercise by forwarding papers to the relevant authorities or risk losing their businesses.

“This is a government law which is there to stay, so compliance is the only way out,” Mzembi said, adding that “this is the reality in the industry, so players must brace for change and comply. This will give locals the opportunity they have been waiting for.”

“We are introducing equality and access in the tourism sector, so that all Zimbabweans see opportunity.
“The transfer of ownership form old hands to new hands will be done through licensing,” the Tourism minister said.

This comes as Indigenisation minister Savior Kasukuwere has of late intensified pressure on foreign-owned banks to comply with the empowerment policy despite experts warning that the move could be disastrous to economy.

There are four foreign-owned banks currently operating in the country namely Standard Chartered Bank, Barclays Bank, Stanbic Bank’s Stanbic, and MBCA — owned by South Africa’s Nedbank.

So far, Kasukuwere has fully indigenised the mining sector.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) argues that Kasukuwere’s one size fits all approach is not ideal for the sensitive financial institutions.

In presenting his 2013 Monetary Policy Statement, Gono said while the banks should observe the laws of the country including the Indigenisation Act, “the process… should, however, take cognisance of the sensitiveness around the operation of the banks to restore confidence, trust and stability in the sector.”

He said the central bank was working together with the Indigenisation ministry “to ensure that compliance with appropriate laws is done in an orderly manner.”

This week Gono assured Standard Chartered that it will not be closed despite threats by the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board — a body formulated to implement the empowerment policy.

But Kasukuwere remains adamant, threatening that the institutions could leave the country if they are reluctant to comply.

“Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Stanbic Bank’s behaviours are appalling and if they want to pack and go they can do that because they are not of benefit to us,” Kasukuwere has been quoted as saying in the media.

“After mining, we will go to banks because how can we leave a situation whereby someone is sitting on over $3 billion and the country cannot fund agriculture? I cannot give the time period when we expect to complete the indigenisation process, but it is not Kasukuwere, it is the law,” he said.

Recently, the Indigenisation minister said foreign banks should be indigenised by July this year. - Ndakaziva Majaka

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