Government is putting in place legislation to eject all non-Zimbabweans with downtown retail operating licences, overwhelmingly businesspersons of Nigerian and Chinese origin.
The foreign businesspeople made an influx into the sector during the country’s 10-year economic downturn and emerged as dominant players.
Zimbabwe’s National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (NIEEB) says government will harmonise all legislation regulating foreign investment to realign them with the goals of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, including repeal of a provision of the Zimbabwe Investment Authority Act that allows foreigners to operate in the country’s downtown retail sector.
The authority, in partnership with relevant authorities, also wants the country’s immigration laws reviewed to set new requirements for a permanent residence permit.
David Chapfika, NIEEB chairperson, on Tuesday said the indigenisation and economic empowerment authority would initiate a convergence of legislation dealing with foreign investments to eliminate provisions that grant benefits to non-indigenous Zimbabweans.
The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act defines an indigenous Zimbabwean as “any person who, before the 18th April 1980, was disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on the grounds of his or her race, and any descendant of such person, and includes any company, association, syndicate or partnership of which indigenous Zimbabweans form the majority of the members or hold the controlling interest”.
Chapfika said: “Sectors reserved for indigenous people will be reserved for indigenous people. Convergence of legislation will be initiated.
“NIEEB is seeking legal advice on how the harmonisation can be done. Loopholes in the (Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment) Act will also be dealt with.”
NIEEB’s principal mandate is to ensure that at least 51% of Zimbabwe’s economy is indigenised in five years and has the legal leeway to come up with the relevant mechanisms and terms of reference.
Chapfika said in terms of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, the country’s retail sector is reserved for indigenous black Zimbabweans and advised city authorities to stop issuing any new downtown retail operating licences to non-Zimbabweans.
But under the Zimbabwe Investment Authority Act, a non-Zimbabwean investor can apply for a licence to operate a retail business without restriction. Chapfika said this should fall away.
Referring to the City of Harare’s recent advertisement in the media in which it invited stakeholder comments on whether to grant operating licences to non-Zimbabwean applicants, Chapfika said the consultation was unwarranted, and based on ignorance of law.
“When I read the advertisement, I wanted to have a chat with the mayor Mr Muchadeyi Masunda seeking clarification, but he was not available,” he said.
“The (Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment) Act is very clear. The retail sector is reserved for indigenous people. It refers to indigenous Zimbabweans, not blacks all over Africa. No.”
Chapfika’s comments are a reaction to growing demands by pressure groups representing the business interests of indigenous Zimbabweans to bar non-Zimbabweans from the retail sector.