Economic empowerment not negotiable

HARARE - The indigenous people of Zimbabwe have since independence in 1980 been waiting patiently for that day when the economy would open to them unconditionally and let those with entrepreneurial zeal to enter and participate in the mainstream economy on terms equal to the incumbents.

Against the aforementioned, this week captains of industry launched the Harare Business Forum which agreed that commercial and industrial land held by council or government should be released for the development of indigenous business structures.

The forum also agreed that business rents must be regulated to stop rental rip-offs and that leases must be stable.

Alec Murindagomo, the forum’s chairperson said their aim was to establish a financial institution to support its members who resolved that there has to be concessional funding for emergent business people.

Murindagomo believes Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment is not a negotiable policy as it is an integral and indivisible part of the sovereign and as such, must facilitate the release of opportunities to all our indigenous people.

“We believe that this policy is a powerful transformation tool and must be deployed constructively, sensibly, equitably and sustainably in order to bring real change to women, youths and our society in general.

“One of the conditions for a serious economic take-off is the deliberate inclusion of local people in the ownership and running of the economy at all levels and therefore, we need to take full advantage of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment law to foster for a permanent change in the ownership of the economy in favour of the indigenous people of Zimbabwe,” said Murindagomo.

He said there can never be sacred cows in this process; every sector has to open up to the people of Zimbabwe just the same way all these sectors opened to the white people during the colonial era.

“We believe in an economy that reflects the preponderance of the dominance of the indigenous people across all facets of life. This in fact is the reality in every modern society. In some countries, foreigners find it difficult to get permits to work in areas considered non-essential because by and large, the logic is to preserve jobs for the local people. When this is done, it is not considered politically incorrect.

Why then do we have to be subjected to a different standard of judgment?”

Murindagomo said the forum was united in their quest to keep the national resources in the safe hands of our people and would like government to do everything possible to provide the necessary protection mechanisms to block all leakages in this regard.

He urged SEDCO to transform into an Empowerment Bank and that all loans granted by SEDCO be structured to give maximum support to the indigenous community. “Its current thrust that veers more towards aggressive commercial banking practices is not helpful at all in a climate where the indigenous people are competing with those who bring money sourced from funds with cheaper rates of interest.”

Murindagomo said the Commercial Policy needs to be balanced in favour of promoting local manufactures.

We cannot continue to rely on foreign finished goods indefinitely because of the serious harm it causes to our manufacturing sector and the way this changes the consumption patterns of our people and creating a situation that might be hard to reverse later.

“Our small scale manufacturers must be given priority as part of a deliberate national strategy to reverse the current dependence on imports and also as a policy to encourage the enhancement of economic activity at local level.”

Harare Business Forum’s Advisor Davison Gomo said the government of Zimbabwe introduced legislation and a policy framework that facilitated the indigenisation of land ownership and subsequently the main stream economy; there should be no going back on that position.

“That all sectors of the economy must be subjected to the requirements of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act and pursuant thereto, government should remove all obstacles and impediments that hamper the implementation of the law and thus denying the indigenous people the right to social, economic and political development,” said Gomo.  

He said the prospect of advancing indigenous business interests has never been an easy task because of a number of critical factors that unless dealt with have the potential to halt this objective before it even takes off.

“One of the huge advantages delivered by political independence from the white minority regime was the right to economic development coupled with the right of access to resources and indeed to reclaim what we lost in years of colonial decadence.

“Unfortunately over the years, the indigenous people of Zimbabwe had to watch the economic activities from the terraces because the entry barriers were too high thus making entry extremely difficult for new players,” said Gomo.

He said the inhibitors were many and possibly still remain so and the few critical ones are that most indigenous business people still operate in areas described as informal, lack access to loan facilities, have no premises of their own, usually work from rented premises, operate from the periphery of the central business district, rental charges are too exorbitant, lease agreements are normally terminated unceremoniously and the areas reserved for them by law are almost exclusively invaded by foreigners.

“They also suffer evictions sometimes unnecessarily. The places they operate from are too small to allow for business expansion and there is total lack of concessionary funding and input costs are just too high.

“We also note with dismay that there are many among us who lack confidence in themselves to run an economy on their own and somehow still exalt the power of foreign capital and indeed ownership.

“No single country in this world leaves its door to its economy wide open to anyone who cares to enter. We recognise the need to work and collaborate with foreign investors but we reject the notion that they should write the rules of the game for us. That time has come and gone. The wealth of this country rightfully belongs to us as indigenous people and as such, we reserve the right to lay down the rules of the game,” he added.

He said in a climate where government is calling for the support of the indigenous people, the expectations from this sector are high.

“At the moment, the sector feels that there are areas that need urgent attention in order to create an environment that proactively supports the indigenous people in a serious and sustainable way.

“However, there is need for the implementation and supervision of the current laws and policies to ensure the realisation of the ambitious Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment as enshrined in the Act.”

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