The en masse resignation of the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) executive committee members led by journalist-cum-businessman Supa Mandiwanzira over the appointment of former Zifa chief executive officer Henrietta Rushwaya as a deputy president by businessman Philip Chiyangwa has raised more questions than answers.
The AAG has openly supported President Robert Mugabe, Zanu PF and its policies but has been divided over the appointment of Rushwaya and Chinhoyi businesswoman Jennifer Mhlanga.
As a result AAG executive director Davison Gomo said the entire executive decided to step down following the controversial appointment by President Mugabe’s nephew.
“We collectively and unanimously as the national executive committee of the AAG announce our resignation from the AAG with immediate effect, all of us as a group. There are fundamental reasons why this is the case. We believe that there is a very serious area of difference in policy.
“The founders of the AAG believe that they have perpetual power to control the organisation. They believe that they have executive authority in spite of an executive authority running the organisation. With effect from tonight we are inviting the founder members of the AAG to feel very free to appoint a new executive to replace all of us,” said Gomo.
“If an organisation is privately and individually owned, the owner has a right to decide as he pleases. Mr Chiyangwa has made it very clear that he owns this organisation and he must do as he pleases. I think it in his interest to run AAG as he wants,” Gomo said.
Zanu PF is currently preoccupied with implementing the controversial indigenisation policy as their campaign gimmick but the prospects of empowerment have been thrown in turmoil as the movers of the strategy are at each other’s throats.
For two weeks now cracks within the all-powerful empowerment group have been widening between the executive committee and founder, Chiyangwa, over unresolved policy issues and alleged interference in the running of the group.
There is more to the fight for the control of the AAG than meets the eye. Obviously the AAG is being used as an entrance point into government empowerment programmes in particular the indigenisation of mines.
The challenge with indigenisation is to strike a balance, redressing some of the ills of the past, while at the same time not discouraging foreign investment in the manufacturing, resource and tourism industries and the infrastructure that is key to the development of the coutry.
The other challenge is to ensure that it is the Zimbabwean person-in-the-shack who benefits and not just a few wealthy cronies of the President.
While the past is important, Zimbabwe has to face the future squarely with the aim of making the economic pie large enough to be shared efficiently by locals, disadvantaged or not, and by the foreign providers of capital and expertise.
The rules need to be put in place to ensure a partnership of willing participants who all benefit from the association.
However, it seems the biggest casualty in the AAG saga is the ordinary citizen who will remain without power. With the amendments to the Indigenisation Act having been gazetted a fortnight ago, what happened on Monday came as no surprise.
The gazette containing the new empowerment provisions states that all foreign companies must have completed their stock disposal exercises by May 9 while transactions should be finalised by the end of September.
Subsequently, foreign mining firms have now been given up to 45 days to comply with the new laws.
In neighbouring South Africa the transition transfer of wealth to blacks has remained a hot potato.
In South Africa, the strategy has been criticised as too elitist and not sufficiently within the reach of the majority poor.
Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) has become the cornerstone of transformation process in a number of countries notably South Africa.
The initiative is a form of regulation through which the economic imbalances of apartheid can be corrected by economically empowering previously disadvantaged communities.
Over the years BEE has been heavily contested and debated, both in the economic and political realms. Chiyangwa has hit-out at the outgoing AAG executive committee saying: “I sat in that meeting and I made it clear that these boys were getting too big for their boots.
“I made it clear as a founder member that if they do not accept to incorporate a woman in the AAG, they must resign.
“In fact, they should get out and either form their own organisation or join another. In fact, how were they elected? Who elected them?”
However, empowerment drive needs to be broad-based, able to reach and change the lives of poor black people on the street. Improving education, health care, and job creation should be prioritised on the BEE agenda.
Changes in the AAG leadership should translate into broadening empowerment strategies and advocacy for uplifting the disadvantaged; creating business opportunities rather than forming new groups or strengthening personal business empires.