Indigenisation: When the messenger matters

Minister Nhema

Minister Nhema

Tichaona Zindoga
“Zimbabwe reverses Kasukuwere’s indigenisation drill”, is how one online publication on Monday captured what it perceives to be the new policy thrust by Government following the appointment of Francis Nhema to the Indigenisation ministry. The ministry is tasked with implementing the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, which among others, requires large foreign enterprises to have the majority ownership of indigenous Zimbabweans.

The policy was initiated in 2007 and gained traction in the last couple of years and it was Saviour Kasukuwere, before Nhema, who gave legs to the policy.

With the reassignment of Kasukuwere, headlines like the aforementioned have been rife, if self-serving.
Suddenly in the world of naysayers of the indigenisation policy has awoken a hope, a desperate hope.

People are now hearing hope in someone’s manner of speech and character, never in the substance of their beings as political agents or products of a particular orientation. It is being pontificated that “soft” Francis Nhema will depart from the imposing Kasukuwere.
Here is what another publication described it: that Nhema replaced Saviour Kasukuwere and his “Auden-inspired the ‘Law is The Law’ approach”.

(The reference must be to a poem by a fine 20th century poet Wystan Hugh Auden, “Law, like love” in which he tells us that “Law is neither wrong nor right,” and that “Except that all agree/Gladly or miserably/That the Law is…”). It was opined that “Kasukuwere’s shunting aside, seen by observers as a demotion, was welcomed as a possible indication Mugabe probably wanted a less radical approach.”
Another “analyst” said: “This change shows that Zanu-PF has altered its ways after seeing clearly that Kasukuwere was wrong and Gideon Gono right.”

This was in reference to the apparent misgivings the latter had in the implementation of indigenisation within the banking sector and counselled something to the effect of the withholding of “verbal gunpowder” in these times of necessary soberness.

Some can even afford to lie, if it gives the comforting prospect, like telling the world that “Power cuts and food queues force Mugabe to retreat from grabbing white businesses,” as The Times of Africa did on Tuesday telling the world the new Harare government “appears to have backed away from its campaign promise to nationalise foreign businesses as the country teeters on the brink of economic collapse.”
Nobody will dispute the fact that the Indigenisation policy, like others, requires fine-tuning and will be perfected in its continual implementation, just like the land reform programme which has been a success despite some residual problems. No policy is ever perfect, even less in situations of revolution.

Zimbabwe is in revolution and the indigenisation seeks to consolidate political independence that was achieved 33 years ago.
Indigenisation is part of a historical continuum of Zimbabwe’s black people’s struggle against oppression, subjugation and pauperisation at the hands of white colonisers. Now, there are certain instructive things at the juncture indigenisation are at the moment: can a revolution or struggle within the same be held back simply because somebody’s skin is lighter and tone smoother; nose smaller and straighter and face boyish?

Can a revolution be derailed because someone looks less intimidating and talks softer? One would hazard a guess that not even Minister Nhema is flattered by this.

It must be an insult to him and the one that appointed him in the first place. It should not even make a sick joke. Nhema has far bigger merits than that, and even the ones that are now lavishing the “soft” mantra know that.  A look at the text of the indigenisation law will inform just how the matter is far more sacrosanct than personnel and howsoever they look.

The law is described as, “An Act to provide for support measures for the further indigenisation of the economy; to provide for support measures for the economic empowerment of indigenous Zimbabweans”.

It also stipulates that “the Government shall, through this Act or regulations or other measures under this Act or any other law” ensure at least 51 percent of the shares of every public company and any other business shall be owned by indigenous Zimbabweans; ensure compliance in mergers and restructuring, provides for the prescription of economic sectors for investment by domestic or foreign investors, and allowing for the setting up of a general maximum time-frame within which the 51 percent threshold, among others.

There are various sectors in which indigenisation will be implemented. These include aviation, banking, transport, energy, manufacturing, tourism, road transport, construction and engineering, trade, agri-finance, mining, entertainment, education, sport, information communication technology and culture.

There cannot be any prizes for guessing that for these lofty ideals will require more than one man to see fulfilment, even if there are set time frames.

One can even fear that it may not be fully implemented in the near future. Yet a struggle becomes a culture and a culture thus engendered will see the fruition of the struggle. But the implementation is not immeasurable or unquantifiable, and here is what will judge the “soft” and “hardliner” alike.

Minister Nhema will have to be eventually judged on the number of empowerment deals he will seal, community share ownership trusts he sets up, disbursement of empowerment funds and how he ensures compliance with such regulations as, for example, the setting aside of particular industries for indigenous Zimbabweans.

He welcomes dialogue regarding concerns over the policy. Time will tell when the messenger will matter.

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  • Chimbuwe

    But why do we always worry about what so and so newspaper is saying. Haven’t they been writing the same things again and again.