HARARE - The Welshman Ncube-led MDC has accused government of playing Russian roulette with the economy after government gave foreign businesses until April 1 to comply with controversial equity laws that compel them to cede majority stakes to locals or risk closure.
Empowerment minister Patrick Zhuwao told a news conference on Wednesday that foreign firms, including those operating mines and banks, that have not complied with a law to sell majority shares to locals will be closed this month-end.
“Evidently, for President (Robert) Mugabe and his niece Zhuwao, it is not enough that tens of thousands of workers lost their jobs during the government sponsored-job termination tsunami last year, hence thousands more must lose their jobs through the forced closure of foreign-owned companies which fail to comply with indigenisation laws by the 31st of March, before they are satisfied,” MDC spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi said.
“We are witnessing sadism at its best.
“It is a tragedy that those superintending over this country think it is alright to play Russian roulette with the country and its citizens’ economic welfare by chasing away foreign investors instead of embracing them, at a time the country is in desperate need of foreign direct investment . . .”
The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act was passed in 2008 under Mugabe’s black empowerment drive but implementation has been slow.
Chihwayi said it makes for tragic reading seeing that this matter is cause for divisions even within Zanu PF itself.
But Zhuwao said line ministers fully backed the new policy thrust.
“There is not a single line minister in Cabinet who did not approve of this or even raise an issue that they don’t agree with this.
“There is no inconsistency with what I want to achieve, there is a law and the law is very, very clear and I think it’s a fair law,” he said.
Zhuwao said businesses have continued to disregard Zimbabwe’s indigenisation laws as if daring Mugabe and his government to do something about their contemptuous behaviour.
“It’s either you comply or you close shop,” he said.
The MDC accused the minister of running out of ideas.
“We are not fooled, we are aware that president Mugabe and Zhuwao have run out of ideas on how to loot funds for self-enrichment after exhausting diamond and other public revenue for decades, and now are after fleecing foreign firms through the shoddy implementation of the indigenisation law,” he said.
“The people of Zimbabwe must not for one moment believe the lie that this is being done with their best interests at heart.
“In our view, it is just a retirement package plan for Zanu PF big chefs who can sense inevitable defeat come 2018, who as usual are not bothered by the catastrophic effects on the ordinary suffering of Zimbabweans.”