Will indigenisation rescue Mugabe?

HARARE - Crusading on an indigenisation programme — the corporate version of the farm invasions a decade ago — President Robert Mugabe is seeking to shore up his support ahead of an election which promises not only to be his last, but bruising as well.

With Zimbabwe set to go for polls this year, the 89-year-old former guerrilla movement leader is using the indigenisation programme as his trump card to win the upcoming vote.

But analysts say history shows that banking on populist policies alone has failed to rescue Mugabe in the past.

An often violent land reform programme which benefited close to half a million landless blacks has failed to deliver him a commanding popular support.

Instead, his Zanu PF party’s support has been on a slide since 2000 until it was forced in a coalition government with hated figure Morgan Tsvangirai being prime minister whom Mugabe has to consult for every major government decision.

Analysts doubt the elitist economic empowerment programme would achieve what Mugabe’s chaotic land largesse failed to deliver.

Doubters of the economic empowerment programme include Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, who has on several occasions clashed with Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere over the methodology of the programme.

Other Zanu PF activists such as Themba Mliswa, who is eyeing a party ticket for the parliamentary elections, say the programme in its current form could hurt Zanu PF.

Addressing war veterans, war collaborators and Zanu PF supporters in Mutare recently, Mliswa forecasted doom for Zanu PF if it does not empower the youths who constitute 60 percent of the country’s population.

“We have not benefitted from the empowerment programme except for a few people and this is an indication to me that things will not be rosy in the election.

“These policies and implementation schemes that Kasukuwere has stitched and the community trusts with companies are not true to the spirit of indigenisation,” said Mliswa.

Under the controversial indigenisation law crafted in 2008 but only being vigorously implemented now, foreign- owned companies, particularly those mining, have been ceding 31 percent shareholding to a government agency and another 20 percent to community and employee trusts.

Analysts and party insiders such as Mliswa think this is benefitting only a few and this could cost Zanu PF on election day.

A scandal involving government empowerment agency, the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (Nieeb) in mining firm Zimplats’ indigenisation deal further poked doubt into the programme.

The Daily News has exposed apparent flaws in the $971 million Zimplats deal.

Touted as the biggest empowerment deal since independence in 1980, the deal was shown to be benefitting only a few politically-connected.

Other indigenisation deals for top-earning companies have also since been questioned, planting seeds of doubt to many including Zanu PF legislators.

A drive back into time to the land reform programme when about 4 000 white commercial farmers who were occupying prime land were driven off by war veterans and landless villagers, shows a different picture.

Contrary to the popularly held view that Mugabe rolled out the land reform programme, disgruntled war veterans were the movers and ultimately shakers of a Zanu PF regime that was getting carried away with the trappings of power, analysts say.

They say Mugabe nonetheless hijacked the programme, polished it and made it his campaigning machine but his support continued to plummet.

Dewa Mavhinga, a political analyst and human rights advocate, says Mugabe and Zanu PF have misread the mood among Zimbabweans hence the failure to recapture the level of support they enjoyed soon after independence.

“They think parcelling out riches will do the trick but the problem is that only a few benefit so at the end, programmes such as indigenisation will have a counter effect.

“More people will be angry at Zanu PF that it is enriching a few,” said Mavhinga.

He added: “At the same time, they are dealing with a population angered by decades of human rights abuses.

“It is unlikely that people who suffered Gukurahundi massacres, the 2000 land and election-related violence, Operation Murambatsvina and the 2008 election orgy have forgiven Zanu PF no matter how indigenisation sounds.”

Mugabe’s partners in the shaky coalition government say the indigenisation programme is a feeding trough for Mugabe’s cronies who are also widely reported to be multiple farm owners.

“The risk is that unbridled greed will lead not only to economic stagnation but will also fuel asset-stripping as those in favourable positions pursue a ‘crash and burn’ mentality,” said Tsvangirai.

“One such contradiction is Zanu PF’s indigenisation policy. We believe this is no more than an elitist project which invariably benefits the few in privileged positions, but it is being executed under the guise of empowering communities,” said Tsvangirai.

Tendai Biti, the Finance minister, says the indigenisation programme is being poorly implemented and will serve only a few individuals as Zimbabweans are generally cash-strapped to buy shares in major companies.

“You cannot craft an act basing on a transformation programme that demands that whatever black Zimbabweans have to own, they must buy the shares.

“That is a disaster because which black person has that money in Zimbabwe? The other disaster is the manner in which it is being implemented. It is being implemented in an opaque, nocturnal and illegal manner."

“These community trusts, you don’t find them anywhere in the Act and once again we are back to the matrix of predatory and extractive accumulation. It is not transparent because the deals are neither reported to Parliament nor Cabinet,” said Biti.

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