THE government continues to send out conflicting signals on the indigenisation policy and no less than three key Cabinet members have spoken on the matter in the past seven days without any sign that the authorities are nearing a shared policy position.
Analysts yesterday said the lack of a common government position on the policy was bad for Zimbabwe’s attempts to lure foreign investment.
President Robert Mugabe, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and Information minister Jonathan Moyo have all spoken on the implementation of the indigenisation programme that has scared away investment since late 2000. The three had different takings on the implementation matrix.
Mugabe during the Independence Day celebrations at the National Sports Stadium on Friday emphasised that government was no longer pursuing the “one-size-fits-all” approach in its indigenisation thrust.
He said companies investing in industries that do not use local raw materials would be exempt from the 51% local ownership.
“If a company is established and is getting raw materials from outside and the raw materials are not Zimbabwean, take the case of aluminium, we don’t have raw materials for it. If the raw materials come from Tanzania, which has it, and if a company establishes itself here in Willowvale, we cannot demand 51%,” Mugabe said.
On Tuesday, Chinamasa joined the new bandwagon when he said the financial services sector was immune to the 51% indigenous ownership ratio during the official announcement of a further $20 million investment by AfrAsia into its local unit.
“I have indicated in private discussions with investors that what is sometimes peddled that you bring in your $20 million and we take 51% of that is nonsense and let it go out that it is nonsense,” Chinamasa said.
But over the weekend Moyo, in an interview with The Herald, said it would be irresponsible for the government to twiddle with a “winning policy” that guaranteed its success in the July 31 polls.
“Economic empowerment and indigenisation is a winning policy and it is irresponsible for anyone, for some of us to want to present it as propaganda for election purposes. That is irresponsible,” Moyo said.
“It’s also a misunderstanding of the guidance we have received from the President, the party, the ideology and policy of the party and, most importantly, the law.”
Analysts said the contradictory statements had a strong bearing on how investors would do business with Zimbabwe.
Economist Eric Bloch said the statements were an indication that improvements were needed in the indigenisation policy.
“These statements show that they all now realise that some changes are needed, but it’s more important that these changes should be reflected in a new piece of law for business to see government’s seriousness,” Bloch said.
Labour economist Godfrey Kanyenze concurred saying: “This is a classic example of double-speak and suggests Cabinet ministers are not singing from the same hymn book indicating lack of congruency and in itself being a sad indictment on this government.”
He added: “Everyone takes a cue from the government and this contradiction sends wrong signals to the investors.”