via Even Mugabe was a scrounger: Chinamasa 14/11/2013 by Gilbert Nyambabvu NewZimbabwe
FINANCE minister Patrick Chinamasa chose to be melodramatic Thursday as he justified the country’s empowerment thrust, claiming that most Zimbabweans, the president not excepted, were pretty much beggars before Zanu PF embarked on the programmes.
The treasury chief was briefing Western diplomats accredited to Harare on the government’s new economic blue-print, ZimAsset, which is expected to guide national development over the next five years.
Zanu PF started the seizure of white-owned farmland in 2000 to address historical imbalances in the distribution of the key resource but critics say the campaign triggered a decade-long recession characterised by runaway inflation following a massive collapse in agricultural output.
President Robert Mugabe also believes that former colonial power Britain, angered by the often violent removal of white farmers and their families from the lands, coerced its allies to impose debilitating economic sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Chinamsa however, said the programme was necessary, insisting a situation where the majority black population lived in abject penury would have been even more explosive if not addressed.
“All of us here, until recently, had no stake. Up to year 2000 we had no stake, maybe except our clothes; from the President down,” he said.
“Now you cannot have a country like that. You cannot have an economy like that where the President, ministers, MPs and everybody are all beggars looking for employment and no employer. That is what we have sought to correct.”
While the Chinamasa’s claim that the political elite were essentially destitute before the land reforms might induce a collective scowl from unconvinced Zimbabweans, he was probably right that they did quite well by the land seizures.
Critics insist that most among the Zanu PF hierarchy helped themselves to multiple farms although the question of whether all of them are using the land productively remains conflicted .
Meanwhile, the government has since moved to indigenise other sectors of the economy with foreign companies now required by law to ensure Zimbabweans own and control at least 51 percent of their local operations.
This did not mean foreign investors were no longer welcome, Chinamasa emphasised.
“What we now need to do is to define a path which is transparent where investors can come and exploit to our mutual advantage as we go along,” he said.
“By addressing you today (Thursday) we are basically inviting you to be partners in that journey and you must look at indigenisation as a journey and not an event.”
The country’s leading foreign mining companies have already moved to comply with the 49/51 percent ownership structure in a process also dogged by allegations of corruption and public spats between top officials.
Chinamasa said different quotas would likely apply to other sectors of the economy.
New empowerment minister Francis Nhema would soon explain how the programme would be implemented in other sectors of the economy.
“Basically the major focus is on our minerals. We are saying we have a resource which is underground. When exploited the resource is depleting so we need also to see what is our benefit during the process of depletion,” said Chinamasa.
“We have already passed a Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill which should be gazetted soon where maybe not in the immediate but in the future, we also want to look at our minerals and say during the depletion of our minerals what can we throw into the fund for future generations or infrastructure development which will assist future generations.”