Zim: Chinese 'not exempt from indigenisation'

Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere insists that there will be no special favours for investors. (Reuters)

Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere insists that there will be no special favours for investors. (Reuters)

Zimbabwe's indigenisation policy requires that all foreign-owned companies cede 51% of their shareholding to local Zimbabweans.

Kasukuwere, Zimbabwe's indigenisation and empowerment minister, said China was a friend of Zimbabwe and had assisted Zimbabwe "since the liberation war days". 

China and Russia, Kasukuwere said, came to Zimbabwe's rescue in 2008 when they vetoed a decision made by other members of the United Nations Security Council to take action against Zimbabwe using Chapter 7, which was used against Libya. 

But Kasukuwere said the historical ties did not mean that the Chinese were exempt from the 51% indigenisation law. 

He cited the 50-50 joint partnership in the Marange diamond fields between the Chinese-owned Anjin and the Zimbabwe government as an example of compliance with the indigenisation law. 

"There may be individuals who might try to exploit the historical ties, but that must not be allowed to happen and spoil everything", he said. 

But political analyst Trevor Maisiri from the International Crisis Group insisted that the Chinese had already been made exempt, either incidentally or by design. 

"This is why Mugabe announced during his opening speech at the Zanu-PF conference held in Gweru last year that the Chinese now need to come on similar terms like anybody else. 

"It alludes to the fact that there could have been some exemptions for the Chinese in the past."

Strict application of the law
Political observers this week said Mugabe's call for the application of the indigenisation law to the Chinese may be an election tactic as his Zanu-PF party feared a backlash from its supporters over the perceived shielding of Chinese businesses. 

Kasukuwere denied this, however, maintaining that the law would be applied without favour. 

"The law is the law and it must be applied as such. There is no special treatment for anyone and no favours.

"No stone will be left unturned as the country pushes ahead with the agenda of economic emancipation in our lifetime," said Kasukuwere.

Among locals, the Chinese have gained favour for bringing in affordable products, especially clothing, but there is discontent in some circles as they are accused of ignoring labour regulations and underpaying employees.

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Ray Ndlovu

Ray Ndlovu

Ray Ndlovu has been a correspondent for the Mail & Guardian in Zimbabwe since 2009. His areas of interest include politics and business. With a BSc honours degree in journalism and media studies, Ray aspires to become a media mogul.   Read more from Ray Ndlovu

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