via ‘Soft’ Nhema toughens indigenisation talk by Gilbert Nyambabvu for NewZimbabwe 13/10/2013
NEW empowerment minister Francis Nhema has vowed to “vigorously pursue” the indigenisation programme, signalling there would be no let-up in the implementation of a policy that has unnerved foreign investors and sparked divisions in the ruling establishment.
The former environment minister, who is not generally associated with Zanu PF party’s hard-line factions, was handed charge of the empowerment portfolio in President Robert Mugabe’s new cabinet line-up after the July 31 vote.
Nhema replaced Saviour Kasukuwere, whose Auden-inspired the “Law is The Law” approach divided the former coalition government, ruffled investors and led to public spats with central bank governor Gideon Gono who urged caution with regard to the financial services sector.
Kasukuwere’s shunting aside, seen by observers as a demotion, was welcomed as a possible indication Mugabe probably wanted a less radical approach.
The programme, a key part of Zanu PF’s election campaign manifesto, compels foreign firms to transfer to locals control and ownership of at least 51 percent of their Zimbabwe operations.
However, addressing a Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) conference in Bulawayo last week, Nhema said the programme would be driven with just as much vigour.
“It is undisputable that as a country we should vigorously pursue the indigenisation and economic empowerment agenda for the benefit of the generality of Zimbabweans while ensuring that we retain our comparative advantage as a nation especially with regards to our manufacturing sector,” he said.
Mugabe also insisted in interviews with state media that claims Nhema’s appointment suggested a change of tact were wide of the mark.
“That is not the case; the ideas, the objectives of Government must be pursued by every member of Cabinet,” he said.
“Yes, they may be different in terms style or presentations of individual ministers but this does not change the objectives set by Government.”
Prior to the ‘verbals’ with Gono – who argued against a one-size-fits-all approach – Kasukuwere managed to reach compliance deals with leading players in the key mining sector, although not without controversy which included allegations of possible sleaze.
Nhema howeve, hinted that the Gono’s one-size-cannot-fit-all suggestion would likely be the new approach going forward.
“There is no debate on the imperative of indigenisation; it is the process of implementation that attracts interrogation. The whole issue here is we want to dialogue; tell us the limitations with regards to the law,” he said.
“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.
“Some big foreign-owned companies such as Zimbabwe Platinum Mines and Mimosa Mining Company have since come up with term sheets on how they intend to comply.”