via Nhema started well but… – DailyNews Live 23 MARCH 2014
Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister Francis Nhema began his term on a high note after giving indications that the “one size fits all” approach to indigenisation that his predecessor Saviour Kasukuwere had been implementing was disastrous.
The appointment of the soft-spoken minister to the Indigenisation portfolio calmed the nerves of foreign investors who felt very jittery and uncomfortable with the militant Kasukuwere.
“There is no debate on the imperative of indigenisation,” he said. “It is the process of implementation that attracts interrogation. The whole issue here is we want dialogue; tell us the limitations with regards to the law.
“We are not applying a one size fits all approach. The peculiarities in each sector and nuances therefore are taken into account in the implementation process.”
Coming from a banking background, Nhema’s positive statements when he assumed office revealed that he was a reasonable person willing to think issued through and engage with key stakeholders before throwing temper tantrums or resorting to crude language.
At face value, these are some of the qualities that give one a façade of approachability and accommodativeness, traits the indigenisation and economic empowerment agenda needs in order to disarm its critics and help to move the programme forward without the burden of legacy issues.
Although Nhema has brought stability to many sectors of the economy regarding indigenisation, the minister remains an enigma and is very unpredictable.
Though he first worked as a diplomat, Francis Nhema was better known as the founder of the Zimbabwe Building Society (ZBS), a financial institution that provided housing loans to the poorest sectors of the community.
He was a darling with the media until things started going wrong at ZBS amid fraud scams. But he survived the scandal to become a minister in President Robert Mugabe’s government in the year 2000.
His appointment was viewed more as a way of appeasing the family of former vice president Joshua Nkomo, who died a year before Nhema’s appointment. Nhema was married to Nkomo’s daughter.
Despite his mediocre performance as poaching reached unprecedented levels during his tenure as Tourism and Environment minister, Nhema has remained in cabinet up to today.
Last year, Nhema promised to bring transparency to all empowerment deals that were shrouded in secrecy and alleged corruption was rampant when Kasukuwere was still the only sheriff in town.
Since his appointment last year, most companies have re-submitted their indigenisation plans. However, nothing has been approved to date.
Foreign investors are still waiting in the wings before they commit their capital into the country.
The bone of contention among investors at the moment is the need for a clarification of the Indigenisation Act. Economic experts have repeatedly begged government to either completely do away with the law — which has scared away investors — or amend it to ensure that it is aligned with other legislation in the country.
Currently, the law has been bent to suit the needs of Zanu PF as the 51 percent shareholding threshold keeps being waived for investors from Asia such as in the Essar/Ziscosteel deal. It is such double standards that have kept other investors at bay.
Unless Nhema says or does something that brings clarity to the controversial regulations, Zimbabwe will remain without significant foreign direct investment.
Other countries in the southern African region are getting an average of $3 trillion per year in foreign direct investment (FDI) compared to the meagre $400 million trickling into Zimbabwe.
On the other hand, youth unemployment has reached catastrophic levels in a country in which universities and colleges continue to churn out more than 30 000 graduates annually while the job market is already saturated.
With an unemployment rate of over 80 percent, we would have expected Nhema to come up with a strategic plan that would help absorb the unemployed youths to participate in the mainstream economy. If the situation remains like this, we are likely to witness another period of unrest in Zimbabwe.
Youths are getting frustrated and their anger is reaching boiling point as they continually fail to access bank loans due to lack of collateral. Most youths cannot contribute anything to treasury and crucially to the economy.
The Zanu PF-led government promised to create more than 2,2 million jobs if it wins a fresh mandate but up to now, not even a single job has been created. Instead, 75 major companies have closed shop since last year, with more expected to follow suit.
The whole country is looking up to Nhema to help bring the economy back to its feet.
The minister needs to open up to foreign investors so that our children can get employed and start preparing for future generations.
Zimbabwe cannot afford to move forward with a large chunk of its population unemployed and not empowered to contribute significantly to economic growth.
The ball is in Nhema’s court and Zimbabweans expect him to walk the talk and get the programme going.