Last week we ran an article titled: Indigenisation law: Revenge for sanctions (NewsDay, November 24) in which President Mugabe told Zanu PF supporters the indigenisation programme was aimed at hitting back at businesses whose governments have called for sanctions against Zimbabwe, particularly the British.
While we applaud the concept of indigenisation, we believe it should be done in a sober manner and not as a way of getting back at certain individuals or countries to the detriment of the economy.
Moreover it becomes a sham when the indigenisation benefits only the big fish and a few selected communities. Indigenisation should be hinged on empowerment and not on the desire to exact revenge on perceived enemies.
Empowerment should be modelled around increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices that are concretised into desired outcomes.
Empowerment is not grab-and-take; it is the development of knowledge, skills and abilities in the recipients to enable them to control and develop their own learning for their own benefit.
Empowerment is multi-faceted and it should enable people to gain control over their own lives. This is not achieved through political manipulation where politicians grab firms and pretend to be philanthropic by offering shares to communities for free.
Empowerment should not be viewed as affirmative action where we grab firms from white people and give them to clueless blacks. It should be viewed as a growth strategy.
The strategy should aim at growing the base of the country’s economy and not shrinking it.
Empowerment should be done in such a way that it does not simply mean crafting legislation to dispossess current owners of their businesses.
While it is important to ensure people own and manage businesses, it is wrong to sell them the idea that empowerment simply means grabbing established businesses from their owners.
We should promote human resource development through skills training, mentorship and internships, among other things, to make sure that development is sustained.
Empowerment should strengthen people’s belief in self-efficiency, therefore eliminating the sense of helplessness and this cannot be achieved through the simple exercise of seizing other people’s assets.
Empowered people feel their capabilities have been enhanced to the extent that they have control over their lives and they can cope with the dynamic economic environment.
What will happen if there are no more firms to grab, or if the firms fold due to poor management? Are the beneficiaries of the grab-and-take frenzy going to cope? The definite answer is no because such people are not empowered enough to survive on their own.
We should ask ourselves as a nation: When we grab firms and give them to communities are we giving these communities fishing skills or are we simply giving them the fish?
It is important to note therefore that indigenisation devoid of empowerment will have serious consequences on the economy in the near future.