OUR fear is that it will not be done properly by people who have the relevant expertise and experience.
Report by Vince Musewe
Between 2004 and 2006 all, but a few indigenous banks in Zimbabwe faced significant political problems. Their founders were hounded out of the country for nefarious accusations of externalising foreign exchange. The financial services industry, as a whole, faced an inexplicable purge. The chief instigator of this entire disempowerment crusade was none other than Gideon Gono in his new role as the Governor of the Reserve Bank backed by His Excellency.
Indigenous banks had indeed started a massive transfer of wealth to black Zimbabweans by funding industry and coming up with quite innovative ways of mobilising capital and creating access to that capital for black-owned and managed indigenous businesses. As a result, a large number of black entrepreneurs began owning their own companies after having gained valuable experience in the corporate sector. The trigger for all this new business activity was the fact that blacks now had access to bankers who understood where they were coming from and genuinely wanted to assist. It was a win-win situation.
If my readers can remember well, black-owned banks even started to surpass established foreign-owned banks in Zimbabwe in terms of assets and deposits under management, including profitability. This, of course, all fell apart as Gono arrived at the central bank and in partnership with Zanu PF, decimated the sector as it was seen as a political threat. Many stories are abound on what really took place, but I shall not go into that unnecessary history here.
During that time, we witnessed an intelligent, rapid and apolitical transfer of wealth to black Zimbabweans and we did not need indigenisation laws.
Indigenisation was happening unabated and based on sound business principles where black-owned companies had the necessary expertise, patience and access to credit lines that resulted in significant economic growth.
This to me remains the most logical and less disruptive means of transferring wealth to black Zimbabweans. The problems only started when the politicians got involved and became jealous, I hear, of the success of indigenous entrepreneurs as they amassed wealth, without the need to gain favours from them. The social behaviour of some of the new black capitalists did hot help the situation as they splurged new money on cars, women and wine. That exacerbated Gono’s purge as they were reined in to comply with political motives.
As Zanu PF now seeks to transfer wealth under their election manifesto, our fears are not that it is a bad thing to do, our fear is that it will not be done properly by people who have the relevant expertise and experience.
In the transfer of wealth, there need not be losers at all and it need not be confrontational as has been the case to date.
Why not, for example, establish a business council of industrialists and economists that can come up with the best model of indigenising each economic sector? Why not ask communities to come up with their own solutions, as opposed to imposing solutions in a prescriptive manner as we have seen?
There are many companies that need revival today in Zimbabwe, why not focus on those than coming up with the threat to take over operating companies? Why not encourage these companies to list on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange as opposed to creating a “black stock exchange” (if there is anything that goes by that term)? In addition to that, not all Zimbabweans want to own companies; some don’t want the stress in their lives, but just want a decent stable job. There is nothing wrong with that.
If Zanu PF’s motives for the achievement of its objectives are seen to be sincere and done transparently, Zimbabwean professionals will surely come to the party and assist. After all, it is in the interest of the country as a whole.
This to me is the point that our politicians are no getting; first, they are not the experts and they do not know everything; second, we are not against indigenisation at all and, third, we have available to us the talent and the brains to develop Zimbabwe with a government that acts as an honest facilitator and not a biased and partisan referee.
But as long as individuals within our government maintain their god complex, bully or bulldoze their views on what must be done, we will leave it to them and watch them mess it up once more.
There is more than enough wealth in Zimbabwe for everyone to share and even leave enough for the next generations. We must see an attitude of abundance and not that of selfishness and greed.
Our politicians must not be allowed to sabotage progress as happened above and I think that this must come first from the highest office. There are many senior ministers who have become bullies and have destroyed this economy under the pretext of indigenisation; that must stop. Numerous viable projects have stalled because of greed and political interference.
There is this tendency for us to always blame the “enemy” out there for our incompetence. It is time we all looked in the mirror and ask ourselves whether the enemy is really out there or within us?
Vince Musewe is an economist based in Harare; you may contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org