The talk of Indigenization has been dominant amongst public policy analysts, the media, at Munhumutapa building as well as by the local and international business entrepreneurs with vested interests in Zimbabwe. TheZanu –pf side of the inclusive government, a former liberation movement has sought to justify this kind of a program on the basis that the indigenous population was disadvantaged under colonialism and now is the time to correct these historical imbalances. It is clear that proponents of Indigenization are utilizing the rationale they applied during the post 2000 land reform program. The proponents further argue that the program will benefit the people of Zimbabwe socially and economically. We hear little talk from these individuals with regards to how Indigenization will impact on economic growth and the livelihoods of people in rural Cross Roads, Chipinge, Matobo and Binga.Such silence on this sensitive matter is disappointing to say the least reflecting how narrow minded and selfish our bureaucrats in big offices in Harare have now suddenly become. One would expect a well thought and carefully planned program from these potbellied individuals.
The 51% share grabbing like the one we witnessed at Zimplants a few weeks ago only serves to isolate us from the rest of the International business community. What is even more dangerous about the case of Zimplants is that the takeover was done to a company which is South African owned. The question which quickly comes to mind then is, are we sincere as African’s when we talk of Regional Intergration. Does South Africa deserve this? Here is a country which has provided shelter and employment to over an estimated 3 million Zimbabweans over the past three decades. Are we serious when we talk of Pan-Africanism? It should be remembered that the South African government protected the Mugabe regime from international onslaught since the turn of the new millennium. The answer to these questions is simple. The ruling elite have chosen to be greedy such that they are prepared to loot what other people have toiled for. An invasion of business premises by Zanu-PF sympathizers lends credence to this opinion, so does the creation of a group called upfumi kuvadiki which has been terrorizing the business community. The Takeover of Zimplants as has been pointed out by many economic and political analysts as a clear warning to all the foreign owned companies that if we are capable of doing this to a big company such as Zimplants, it means you better voluntarily offer shares. It is a clear message to other foreign owned little companies.
From the statements we have heard emerging from the unity government officials, it is clear that there is no unanimity in the adoption and implementation of indigenization policy. The Prime –Minister of the Republic and the Finance minister are singing a tune which is different from the one being sung by the ZANU-PF youth leader and Minister of Youth and Indigenization. The likes of Kasukuwere who are for indigenization policy argue that the program will benefit many Zimbabweans socially and economically. From the indigenization program we are going to see ZANU-PF owning shares according to the share ownership structure which was announced by Kasukuwere on the day he bulldozed himself to Zimplants. Who in this country does not know that when you talk of the Youth ministry you will be talking about a ZANU-PF outfit which is on standby, ready for a general, by-election, or mini-general election which Jonathan Moyo was talking about the other day while confusing himself.
Some of us are even skeptical that the ten percent for the community is going to benefit the people in these intended areas. Zanu-PF ought to convince us that they will not abuse the Chiefs and Village heads as they have always done in the past three decades to decide how local funds should be utilized and which are priority projects for rural communities .We fear that these funds will remain controversial like the proceeds from the Marange Diamond fields which are yet to be fully accounted for to this present day. Zimbabweans need answers to all these questions no matter how silent they are and if they do not get them, they won’t hesitate to use their votes to remove public officials from the positions they elected them to serve. It is as easy as all that.
As the deafening silence continues on how the program will progress, we all know that these shares will be sold to a few wealthy individuals who are well connected to the political elite. This political economy approach does not help the economy in any way, neither does it empower the people. We have a living example of an indigenization program which was implanted south of the Limpopo when the black government assumed power in 1994.The project was called BEE and as we speak today it has only enriched a few who were politically connected .We are talking of business magnates such as Tokyo Sexwale ,Cyril Ramaphosa and Mathews Phosa. Poverty and unemployment continues to be on the increase in South Africa. If we are good learners as Zimbabweans we should by now have learnt that some of these programs which sound “Revolutionary” do not in any way assist our people in improving their livelihoods.
They rather pose a serious danger of scaring away investors while at the same time destroying the little industries we have, because the new owners are most likely not to possess the requisite skills. Proponents of Indigenization are very good at using the unfortunate historicity of the colonial legacy to advance their greed agenda using the racial card.
IN SEARCH OF AN ALTERNATIVE
Foreign firms are guilty of failing to declare their profits and often send most of the money they get to their mother countries without improving the communities where they are operating from. What we have rather seen is the destruction of areas where they are operating .Kamativi is a good case . Employees at most of these companies are often under-paid. Given such a scenario is it worth defending foreign firms from hawks such as Kasukuwere? They need to pull up their socks and attend to these matters leveled against them. In search for a solution to issues such as capital flight, upliftment of communities, the improvement in people’s livelihoods one notes that Indigenization is not the panacea to all these woes in that capital flight will also even occur when companies are owned by locals. We still haven’t forgotten millions of dollars which were externalized by directors and owners of banks which led to many of them fleeing the country as the state sought to arrest them.
It is very unfortunate that we live in a uni-polar world, where certain ideas are not tolerated. The end of the cold war brought about this sad development. Is it true that if a business enterprise is not privately owned it is bound to be inefficient? Proponents of capitalism have made us surely believe so, thanks to a very corrupt leadership which has looted all public enterprises and left them to collapse . A transparent government will surely manage companies very well with the proceeds being channeled to the upliftment of people’s lives. It is from this standpoint that I strongly advocate for the nationalization of companies if we are serious about ensuring that proceeds from the extractive industry really benefit the people. I am alive to the fact that those who advocate for this system are described as still living in the past and often branded Communists, but we should never give up our quest to see people benefiting from their proceeds. Under nationalization, cases of capital flight are dealt with. If the governments lacks capital, that is when we can start talking of public sector/private sector partnerships.
Freedom Mazwi is a Political Scientist and former Political Secretary to the MDC National Chairman and Speaker of Parliament