A fortnight ago Zimbabwe hosted the inaugural Indigenisation Indaba that drew investors from neighbouring countries, a host of local companies and government officials.
The event was organised by Africa Economic Development Strategies (AEDS).
NewsDay chief business reporter Mernat Mafirakurewa (ND) spoke to AEDS chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara (TM) after the indaba. Below are excepts of the interview.
ND: How many people attended the indaba and from which countries?
TM: The indaba was attended by more than 500 people from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. We also had diplomatic representatives from the European Union Commission.
ND: What in your view would you say were the major highlights of the indaba?
TM: The indaba managed to get the government position regarding the current exercise in the mining sector guided by General Rules No 114. Delegates learnt that the government of Zimbabwe is insistent on the empowerment credits and really wants the 51% on the table and will start to allocate it to the communities.
ND: Do you get the sense that investors now understand what the country is trying to do and which direction the empowerment programme is taking?
TM: Yes, there is a clearer picture now as to the direction the agenda is taking which was agreed to by the full Cabinet. Investors now know the indigenisation programme is irreversible and Kasukuwere (Saviour) is the chief and sole government spokesperson on these issues. Most investors did not oppose the exercise, but were perturbed with the discordant voices that were coming from political actors.
ND: How beneficial was this indaba to both local and foreign investors?
TM: I think it was very useful because it provided unfettered insight into what the government of Zimbabwe is currently doing and also clarified to them who is calling the shots and who is just shouting.
ND: At the indaba it was evident that ministers in the inclusive government continue to interpret indigenisation differently. In your view what should be done so that the country can speak with one voice?
TM: Yes, there was a bit discord, but it seems it has actually improved from the previous rantings. We must admit this is a coalition agreement and you don’t expect them to appear to be in agreement otherwise they will lose political relevance. Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara pronounced it very clearly that no minister is allowed to speak on the subject matter other than Saviour Kasukuwere and we hope that will make the government of Zimbabwe have one voice on that.
ND: What next for AEDS — are you likely to organise another event of such magnitude?
TM: We are now in serious talks with the Business Unity of South Africa to hold a similar meeting in Sandton, South Africa, in the near future. We would want to take the same set of speakers to South Africa so that a broader sector of the South African business community can also understand the Zimbabwe indigenisation dynamics better as opposed to get to hear it through a hostile foreign media. In addition , we will be holding international road shows to European Union, United States, and Asia.
ND: Do you think ordinary Zimbabweans will benefit from this programme given that they hardly attend such high profile conferences?
TM: The cross examination and the grilling interrogation conducted by the delegates on the Zimbabwe ministers also benefits the generality of Zimbabweans as the government continues to be put in check and forced to realign its implementation with the wishes of the masses. The comments and queries made by delegates who attended are mainly reflective of the wishes of those who did not attend.
ND: What were the resolutions of the indaba?
TM: They were plenty. However, they include the importance of including traditional chiefs in the whole process, the decentralisation of the National Indigenisation Economic Empowerment Board functions in provinces, mobilisation of resources to pay for the shares bought — and there must not be free lunch.
ND: There were quite a number of South African investors at the indaba. What are the major similarities and differences between the country’s empowerment programmes?
TM: To South African investors, the indigenisation agenda is not a new and alien phenomenon and it draws a lot of similarities with their own Black Economic Empowerment programme especially on areas of community reinvestment, workers equity participation, and empowerment by procurement.
The difference is on the quantum of equity and the usage of the scorecard regime which Zimbabwe do not agree with.