Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono has vowed to resist moves by government to seize majority shareholding in foreign-owned banks saying he is ready to issue licences to locals with the capacity to start their own institutions.
The declaration at a Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) breakfast meeting in Bulawayo on Thursday came as Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere turned his guns on the banking sector
as part of the indigenisation drive. Kasukuwere has set his sights on forcing banks such as Standard Charted Bank and Barclays Bank to cede 51% of their shareholding to locals as part of the indigenisation policy.
But Gono said as long as he was still the central bank governor, the banks would not be forced to capitulate.
“As long as I am governor I will protect the sector from unintended consequences,” he said.
“Instead of sharing an existing cake, I have said those who have an appetite for banking please come forward. I will issue licences rather than destroy existing banks.I have no guilty conscience to say that, seated next to a member of the presidium (Vice President John Nkomo).
“The money in the banks doesn’t belong to the shareholders but to the people. Instead of indigenisation, let’s support the people to start new banks.
“Indigenising those banks will make life difficult for the people. The maximum shares for those banks are $40 to $50 million.
“There are some people who think that they will share amongst themselves that money after taking over the banks.”
Gono said he would encourage people to start their own banks instead of buying into existing ones.
“We will not be happy for the people to take a share in a bank for nothing,” he said.
“If you have money to buy into a bank, why would you buy into an old and tired bank and not start your own energetic bank?”
Finance Minister Tendai Biti has also said there is no need to indeginise banks.
However, Kasukuwere told an online publication yesterday that there was nothing sensitive about banks and vowed to press ahead with his reforms.
“What is sensitive about banks? The law is also sensitive,” he said.
“People should stop dreaming. We can have personal opinions but they should remain just that. We cannot, as leaders, be seen to be undermining the same laws we have enacted through Parliament.”The indigenisation programme has been blamed for the dampened investment climate as foreign investors fear losing their money in Zimbabwe.