via Unease strikes ‘foreign’ business owners over indigensation deadline | SW Radio Africa by Alex Bell December 18, 2013
The business community in Zimbabwe has been left uneasy and confused, with less than two weeks to go until the deadline to comply with ZANU PF’s indigensation plans.
The government has been pushing forward with indigensation and in recent days a seven-page notification has been circulated to many of the companies that will be affected by the regulations.
The circulating form, titled ‘Notification of Extent of Indigenisation and Indigenisation Implementation Plan’, lists more than 50 categories of businesses that must be owned 51% by Zimbabweans. This includes companies operating in the manufacturing, tourism, mining, finance, transport, communication, construction and energy sectors.
Business owners in these sectors have until January 1st 2014 to complete and submit the form to the Indigensation Ministry, which states that the purposes of the form are to “assess the extent of indigenisation” of the business and the sector within that business falls.
The form asks for all ownership and shareholder details (including names and identification numbers) and the current state of indigenisation of the company. The form goes on to ask business owners to give a percentage of the extent their business is already indigenised, and to provide a plan of how they will meet the national indigensation laws over the coming years.
Under the Indigensation and Economic Empowerment Act, companies have until March 2015 to change the ownership of their businesses so that 51% of their shareholding is owned by ‘indigenous’ Zimbabweans. The act also specifies that ‘indigenous’ Zimbabweans are those who were unfairly disadvantaged as a result of their race before 1980, as well as their descendents.
The Act gives no more clarity about eligibility of non-black Zimbabwean citizens such as mixed race Zimbabweans or white Zimbabweans. There’s also no clarity for citizens by marriage or those with parents who were born outside the country.
The notification comes on the back of renewed threats voiced by the Indigensation Ministry to business owners in the ‘reserved’ sector, including salons, bakeries, estate agents and advertising agencies.
Under the Act, only indigenous Zimbabweans are allowed to operate in these sectors, and they must have a compliance certificate to prove this. The deadline to apply for this certificate is January 1st 2014.
As a result the majority of the business community has been left in a state of anxiety. According to SW Radio Africa’s Bulawayo correspondent Lionel Saungweme this anxiousness has been made worse by serious confusion “because the laws are always changing.”
“Originally some people thought they were safe because the laws appeared promulgated to only target white people. But now, it appears that is no longer the case,” Saungweme said.
He explained that Zimbabwe’s large community of Nigerians, many of whom have been living in Zimbabwe for years and have Zimbabwean spouses, are concerned about losing their businesses.
“There is so much vagueness about who will be affected. So people are wondering who the axe will fall on. Plus there is worry that the laws will be applied selectively,” Saungweme said.