Indigenisation in its present form is shameful legalized looting

OPINION – Of all public policies adopted in post-independent Zimbabwe, indigenization as presently formulated is the most harmful, partisan and counter-productive of them all. It is very regrettable that selfish political expediency and greed rather than sound economic principles are the driving force in the implementation of the controversial piece of legislation.

Although, public policy is defined by Charles L. Cochran and Eloise F. Malone as ‘political decisions for implementing programs to achieve societal goals’ (Public Policy Perspectives and Choices, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995), Zimbabwe’s indigenization policy is pursuing other objectives.

Half-baked policy

The ongoing wanton vindictive parceling out or the threatened take-over of other people’s businesses, investments, and valuable assets by Zanu-pf activists is not achieving societal but short-term partisan goals. The half-baked policy is actually damaging the economy and will have serious implications for the future of the country at a time when it is slowly recovering from implosion.

For example, the tourism sector and the fishing industry in Kariba were said to be in panic this week after Zanu-pf supporters and the Affirmative Action Group (AAG) allegedly threatened to take over some foreign-owned hotels, harbours and fisheries in the resort town (Newsday, 04/02/11). We have also learnt that Germany has lodged an official complaint with the government over attempts by some Zanu-pf officials in Masvingo to seize a conservancy owned by one of its nationals (Financial Gazette, 04/02/11).

Throwing spanners in the works

With high levels of unemployment this is not the time to throw spanners into the works but of putting heads together to solve problems facing the country. Unfortunately indigenization has emerged to be a problem in itself rather than a solution because it has proved to be shameful legalized looting. While blacks were marginalized and will probably remain that way for sometime to come, the current indigenization policy is an ill-conceived, corrupt and highly politicized campaign that is deliberately targeted at settling scores than redressing colonial imbalances.

An important economic indicator of Zimbabwe’s compromised industrial performance is the reported ‘tremendous decline in cargo’ by the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) from 18 million tonnes shipped at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic boom in 1998 to 2 million tonnes last year (The Financial Gazette, 04/02/11). The government-owned rail company has been adversely affected by a fall in industrial output resulting in NRZ’s headcount at its Bulawayo headquarters dropping to 2,000 in 2010 from 8,000. It is also reported that the company has been a victim of vandalism.

Closed-door meeting

Even more upsetting are reports alleging that a closed door meeting which was attended by Vice President John Nkomo is believed to have given a green light for the complete takeover of sugar conglomerate Hippo Valley and Triangle and parcel out the land to indigenous farmers who are Zanu-pf supporters (The Zimbabwean, 05/02/11).

Given the growing number of failures of some of the indigenized companies, it is time government took stock of the negative impact the policy is having on foreign investment and the wider society. It does not make sense to sacrifice the country’s valuable resources in order to win a vote here and there.

At a time when Zimbabwe is sitting on a US$6.9 billion debt and government is unable to attract sustainable lines of credit let alone direct foreign investment, the mining sector is facing an uncertain future over the 51% indigenisation slice. Zanu-pf activist, Saviour Kasukuwere has reportedly declared: ‘Currently work is at an advanced stage to finalise consultations on the mining sector with a view to publish the gazette for the sector not later than the end of February 2011’(TalkZimbabwe, 04/02/11).

Capital Flight

There are concerns that the empowerment regulations could trigger expropriation of properties which could result in massive capital flight (The Independent, 03/02/11).

As said by Zanu-pf politburo member, Oppah Muchinguri, ‘Zanu-pf is now full of crooks’ who are abusing their positions to amass wealth through corruption and under-hand dealings (The Zimbabwean, 05/02/11). She reportedly said that most of the Zanu-pf officials and ministers ‘are liars who are misleading President Mugabe that all is well from the cell level going upwards yet on the ground its is disastrous’.

Instead of creating an ideal investment climate like other countries are doing, some of the partners in the coalition government look determined to scare investors with their political rhetoric. Zimbabwe needs to emulate best practices from developed countries rather than be obsessed with frustrating investors for cheap votes.

Britain’s Silicon Valley

For example, in November last year, British Prime Minister set out plans to create a hi-tech hub in east London to rival California’s Silicon Valley and had already attracted commitments to invest from companies including Facebook, Google, Cisco, Intel and British Telecom (DailyMail, 04/11/10).

Nothing stops Zimbabwe with its enviable sunshine and good infrastructure from developing it’s own Silicon Valley in Ruwa or Norton resulting in incredible development all round in terms of increased employment and industrial output.

Entice British investors

Similarly, countries which Zimbabwean leaders like to visit on unconfirmed medical treatment have managed to entice British investors in the form of universities which have set up satellite campuses on their territories with great success. Examples include China, Malaysia and the Middle East. British Universities are said to be earning an estimated £2 billion a year by awarding degrees to hundreds of thousands of students, most of whom never set foot in Britain (TimesOnline, 24/09/09).

The campuses offer identical syllabuses to those in Britain and teaching is in English. The University of Nottingham’s campus in Ningbo, China had 3,500 international and 57 British students on its roll, while Bolton, Middlesex and Heriot-Watt all have satellites in the United Arab Emirates with brand new campuses and high tech facilities. Given Zimbabweans’ desire for learning and acquiring good qualifications, we should be seen to be enticing for example the University of London or Manchester to open campuses wherever they want in our country.

Key to success

The key to all these success stories is a stable political environment guided by a responsible government and not a scorched earth policy.

Clifford Chitupa Mashiri is a London based political analyst and regular columnist for The Zimbabwe Mai, he can be contatcted at zimanalysis2009@gmail.com