Zim Parliament throws out 'absurd' nationalisation laws

Zimbabwe’s Parliament has declared that Mugabe-backed regulations seeking to nationalise foreign-owned companies are “unconstitutional, unreasonable and absurd,” and called for them to be repealed or revised.

The law, which would force all foreign-owned companies to cede their majority stake to black Zimbabweans, was proposed by the minister for youth, indigenisation and economic empowerment, Saviour Kasukuwere, with the backing of President Robert Mugabe.

“We now expect the minister to come to Parliament and tell us what he (plans) to do,” said Shepherd Mushonga, the head of a cross-party parliamentary legal committee.

Kasukuwere was unavailable for comment.

Robert Mugabe and Kasukuwere say the move is necessary to ensure black Zimbabweans benefit from the country’s lucrative mineral resources.

Zimbabwe is rich in minerals including diamonds, uranium, chrome, platinum and gold. The empowerment drive is targeting major companies, including Anglo American, Rio Tinto and Implats. But it is not restricted to mining companies, as Nestle also appears to have been targeted.

Most companies have adopted a wait-and-see attitude, putting expansion and retooling plans on hold until there is clarity on how the empowerment plan will be executed.

Firms that fail to disclose how they plan to transfer shares within the stipulated period face prosecution, according to the empowerment regulations.

“The unanimous finding of the committee is that this statutory instrument is both unconstitutional and ultra vires (beyond legal authority),” reads a report by the Mushonga-led committee.

They said the hefty penalties imposed by the law were “grossly disproportionate” to the offences, and therefore “inhumane and degrading”.

The imposition of prison terms for offenders was “unreasonable and absurd”, the committee wrote, adding that this was unconstitutional, as it neglected the right to the protection of the law.

Mushonga said in an interview that the regulations gave the minister of indigenisation “too much” power, as they allowed him to impose on businesses a penalty which is supposed to be administered by Parliament.

Veritas, a legal monitoring organisation, said that the regulations could be challenged in the Supreme Court if Mugabe did not repeal them.—Sapa-dpa