Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Zim Euromoney Conference – no time for mixed messages

Zim Euromoney Conference – no time for mixed messages

By Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst, London 08/03/11

How Zimbabwe will manage to lure investors at the Euromoney Conference which 
opened in Harare Tuesday, a day after Zanu-Pf youths reportedly seized a 
South African company’s project, EasiPark is mind-boggling.

With the country short of US$10 billion for capital quick turn-around, it 
would be a big wasted opportunity if the distinguished 300 delegates 
expected to attend were to be subjected to mixed messages by their 
Zimbabwean hosts.

This is not the time to play cheap partisan politics. Neither is it an 
occasion for orchestrating false national unity for the cameras then ‘we are 
back on each other’s throat’ once the visitors have gone. There has to be an 
admission of the ongoing debate on the format which economic empowerment 
should take in Zimbabwe than to mislead the conference with false assurances 
or scare them with ‘indigenisation’.

It is also vital to remind ourselves about the rationale of affirmative 
action which in the 21st century should be colour-blind as opposed to 
‘indigenisation’ which deliberately discriminates against non-blacks, 
thereby creating understandable resentment. The basic social science view of 
affirmative action was spelt out by the US President Johnson when he said:

“Men and women of all races are born with the same range of abilities. But 
ability is not just the product of birth. Ability is stretched or stunted by 
the family that you live with, and the neighbourhood you live in – by the 
school you go to and the poverty or the richness of your surroundings. It is 
the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the little infant, the 
child, and finally the man” (or woman) my own emphasis (

Although empowerment or affirmative action programmes are by nature very 
controversial the world over, in Zimbabwe it is the perceived deliberate 
attempts by the former ruling party to hijack a sound national programme for 
partisan and short-term gain ahead of elections. Even in South Africa 
affirmative action has been criticised for “enriching a minority of ‘black 
diamonds’ loyal to the governing African National Congress and driving away 
white businessmen” (The, 31/07/09).

It remains to be seen how Robert Mugabe of Zanu-pf will lead the push for 
foreign investment when recently to mark his 87th birthday he was 
threatening to take over South African owned mining giant Zimplats accusing 
them it of externalising profits.

“Nestle refused to buy milk from Gushungo dairies,” Mugabe told a crowd of 
Zanu-pf supporters, adding, “I told Kasukuwere (Indigenisation Minister) to 
begin with them and tell them he was sent by Gushungo. We should deal with 
them; let them get out of the country” (Zimbabwe Standard, 26/02/11).

Of course, it is undeniable that Zimbabwe needs to redress the economic 
imbalances inherited at independence 31 years ago. Obviously, it would not 
be empowerment if Nestle is nationalised because of a personal grudge with 
the leader of Zanu-pf. However, it is how the re-dressing is done which is 
debatable and not whether empowerment is necessary at all. The key point of 
this paper is doing away withy the race label.

Attempts by some Zimbabwean politicians to duplicate South Africa’s Black 
Economic Empowerment (BEE) legislation by using a score-card or 
alternatively copying the Bafokeng empowerment model are likely to run into 
difficulties because of different scenarios and possible resistance from 
within the power elite.

A good observation by the Financial Gazette (17/02/11) is that ‘the Bafokeng 
nation first forged a deal with mining firms in its territory in Rustenburg 
in which it was paid mining royalties . The mining royalties were later in 
the 1990’s converted into shareholding for the Bafokeng community.’

A variance of that in Zimbabwe would be for example, for the Chiadzwa 
community in Marange communal area to get mining royalties from Mbada, 
Canadile, ZMDC and the Chinese joint venture companies which are mining 
their precious diamond deposits and eventually convert the royalties into 
shareholding. While a very noble proposition, its likely to be a hardsell to 
some of the players already involved in Chiadzwa’s diamond mining amidst 
human rights abuses.

Another observation worth making is that the BEE programme, while admittedly 
potentially a disincentive to investors, could have a greater chance of 
success in South Africa than in Zimbabwe without causing serious damage to 
the economy. While Pretoria has a strong and highly advanced industrial base 
as well as diverse financial resources, the case is not the same with Harare 
where some listed companies like Gulliver and Cairns have halted some of 
their operations due to adverse trading conditions.

Zimbabwe, should scrap its current reckless indigenisation claim of  51% 
ownership of shares even in a family business or sole trade worth US$500,000 
because the policy is flawed, partisan, racist, open to abuse and 
unsustainable. A better alternative to the controversial indigenisation law 
would be the use of fiscal and institutional measures to promote empowerment 
of disadvantaged youths regardless of race, colour, ethnicity, gender, 
disability, political affiliation and so on.

Such a mechanism would entail building an Empowerment Fund that is managed 
transparently by Treasury through a progress empowerment levy e.g. 5% on 
profits charged to multi-million dollar corporations in Zimbabwe for a 
duration of  up to 10 years subject to a nationwide consultation exercise.

The Fund would be disbursed by Treasury to targeted disadvantaged youths 
between 18 and 30 years of age (no old men or women) on a means test basis 
as well as production of a bankable business plan with repayment of capital 
only and agreeing to a joint venture with a government mentor until the 
project shows evidence of being self-sustainable. You don’t give a trainee 
air pilot the controls until you feel confident that it’s safe to do so!

The advantages of the proposed option to indigenisation is that it is colour 
blind, transparent, non-partisan, sustainable, non-discriminatory except on 
merit, not corrupt or open to abuse like the current system which is plainly 
vindictive against an ethnic minority purely for narrow political reasons. 
This is the only way to pull the indigenisation rug from under the feet of 
prophets of partisan politics.


Zimbabwe needs investors more than investors need Zimbabwe, so there is no 
point in ‘sabre rattling’. Empowerment of disadvantaged youths should be 
colour blind like that done by the Prince’s Trust in the UK. In order to 
build Zimbabwe, there is need for reconciliation, compromise, diplomacy and 
magnanimity. People want to see a consistent application of policy 
regardless of political persuasion.

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst, London,


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