There is no doubt that Zimbabwe’s contentious indigenisation law has given the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) a voice and the lobby group has been making noises lately on issues to do with black empowerment.
Some of the noises that have been coming from its ranks however sound discordant.
We report in today’s edition that the AAG is opposing the acquisition of Makro, a South African-owned wholesaler by local supermarket chain OK Zimbabwe.
The pressure group has since written to the Tariffs and Competitions Commission and to Makro to register its disapproval of the transaction.
Part of the correspondence read: “Affirmative Action Group is the chief sponsor of these (Indigenisation) laws and therefore stands guard to ensure their full compliance. However, before we oppose any initiative, we engage parties concerned and enlighten them of the consequences of thereof. This is done out of respect, decency and for expedience.”
That is to say that the group has now appointed itself chief constable in the policing of the law, notwithstanding statutory structures that have been set up by government to do the same.
In this quest to police and contest business transactions which it feels are not in the best interest of the country, the AAG should be mindful of the impact of its interventions on the economy and investment.
The intervention by the AAG should reflect the broader national sentiment on business transactions but more often than not, we do not believe that the group’s actions have national endorsement.
Really, are people on the streets of Harare, Bulawayo, Chinhoyi and Chivhu going around saying that they are opposed to the acquisition of Makro by OK Zimbabwe?
A simple poll will reveal that most of them want jobs and those who are employed want better salaries and working conditions.
Many companies notorious for paying paltry wages and engaging in unfair labour practices are locally-owned.
Cases of indigenous businessmen who soon after acquisition, have run to the ground once thriving companies are well-documented.
Businessmen who have screamed loudest about the need for indigenisation are not paragons of virtue either.
They are deeply in debt after failing to repay loans or to pay suppliers.
They have been taken to court and their goods and properties have been auctioned to recover debt.
We ask today what has happened to the large Jaggers warehouse in Masasa and to the Harambee Holdings empire? The AAG should explain here.
The challenge before the AAG should be to tell the nation about the success of black empowerment using demonstrable examples.
We want the group to provide us with a digest of successful acquisitions and benefits which have accrued to the workers and the economy since select companies changed hands.
In other words, AAG’s militancy should be tempered with a clear policy that seeks to advertise the benefits of their fight.
The AAG as “chief sponsor” of the indigenisation law should not appear to be fighting big business. More often than not, this is the image that the group portrays.
We are watching the latest intervention in the Makro-OK deal keenly. Who is also angling for the wholesaler, we wonder?