|Old Mutual, CABS hypocrisy exposed|
|Sunday, 12 February 2012 00:00|
When Vice-President Joice Mujuru launched the Old Mutual Kurera/Ukondla Youth Empowerment Fund as part of the indigenisation and economic empowerment drive at the Harare International Conference Centre, there was jubilation among youths throughout the country as young people legitimately expected to benefit from the programme.
Under the deal, Old Mutual committed to shed 25 percent of its equity to indigenous youths and transfer the cash equivalent of this portion, that is $10 million, into a revolving fund through which viable youth projects were going to be funded.
Another $1 million was committed for youth business skills training.
At the official launch, Old Mutual Group Chief Executive Officer Mr Luke Ngwerume positively weighed in, arguing that his company had made the funds available, not as a means of only complying with the indigenisation law but as a way of giving back to the Zimbabwean community.
He said this was a legitimate obligation of responsibility to an environment that has facilitated the unprecedented growth and profitability of their business over a number of years.
While Old Mutual received accolades as a shining example of big business coming in to advance the empowerment cause and take the lead in solving the perennial problem of youth unemployment, three months down the line events on the ground prove otherwise.
Nothing has materialised and there is no progress at all.
This leads us to the unfortunate conclusion that Old Mutual and its subsidiary CABS never had any intention of honouring their part of the bargain, in fact, Old Mutual is on the verge of disempowering our youths by wasting their time, energy, ideas, and the little resources they have which have been invested to satisfy the minimum conditions set by CABS for them to qualify for loans.
Firstly, CABS severely restricted the availability of loan application forms, denying thousands of youths the opportunity to state their case and apply for the loans. This was despite the fact that thousands of youths had used their meagre resources to run around opening a CABS account and preparing the business proposals.
Ask any youth who attempted to acquire a CABS loan application form over the past three months and the sure answer one will get is that it is easier to cross the dreaded Rubicon than to get the form.
Yes, the application form, not the money.
Therefore, before we get to the proposal assessment process, thousands of youths were denied the chance to be considered for the empowerment fund.
For those who managed to get the forms, that was the beginning of another long, lonely, tiresome journey through "the CABS application process littered with spanners, bottlenecks and obstacles seemingly designed and well calculated to frustrate the youth into abandon.
While we have no query with meeting the requirements of opening a CABS account and developing a viable business proposal to qualify for funding, we obviously strongly object to the unilateral, dismissive and seemingly vindictive way CABS have assessed and rejected thousands of youth proposals.
As the youths championing the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment drive, we travelled the length and breadth of this country giving youth information on the requirements of the fund, training and assisting them to develop the proposals, assessing some projects on the ground and playing an active part in ensuring that as many youths as possible satisfy the conditions for funding.
However, our supposed partners for empowerment in the form of Old Mutual and its subsidiary CABS failed to complement our efforts. In fact, they threw spanners into our attempts to facilitate genuine and sustainable youth economic empowerment, not only for our members but for thousands of Zimbabwean youths on whose behalf the indigenisation programme is being implemented.
Over the past week or so hundreds of youths have been receiving rejection letters from CABS.
This comes when there was no business site visit, no tangible assessment or discussion of the project with the submitting youth.
The million-dollar question every recipient of the said letter is asking is: how did CABS arrive at the decision?
Our assessment has indicated that almost all recipients of the CABS decision letter have been rejected.
Of course, we acknowledge that some few projects received some form of commitment to funding, but this window dressing will not take our eyes from the empowerment ball that Old Mutual wants to drag from under our feet.
Therefore, we reject these so-called decision letters with the contempt they deserve and call upon CABS or Old Mutual or whoever is behind this unfortunate state of affairs not to jeopardise the mass-empowerment programme by sowing seeds of doubt, insincerity and lack of delivery into the masses, particularly the youths.
However, we shall never doubt President Robert Mugabe when he commits to economically empower the masses, we never doubted Amai Mujuru when she launched the Kurera/Ukondla Youth Fund and we will never doubt Minister Saviour Kasukuwere when he promises sustainable youth empowerment.
But we will challenge Old Mutual when they carry out pseudo empowerment and we will face CABS when they trivialise our bread and butter issues.
We will not stand aside and look while they put thorns onto our road to the promised land of sustainable economic prosperity. History will judge us harshly if we keep quiet in the face of this travesty.
Therefore, whether it is by commission, omission or sabotage, Old Mutual and CABS are on the verge of provoking the most populous, significant, dynamic and energetic component of the Zimbabwean nation, the youth.
In other words, the company is on the brink of derailing part of our economic revolution that is very essential to our survival as the future of this country.
We call upon the Old Mutual leadership to go back to the drawing board and come up with a feasible plan for genuine youth empowerment as per the original promise.
The youth of this country are heavily pregnant with the empowerment expectation. A premature or stillbirth and the associated impact on unemployment and youth poverty are too ghastly to contemplate.
l Kurai Prosper Masenyama is the Zanu-PF Director of Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment.