The Sunday Mail
Cde Mike Bimha
Our Reporter Norman Muchemwa caught up with Zanu-PF Secretary for Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Cde Mike Bimha to find the direction the ruling party is taking in empowering the people. We publish Cde Bimha’s responses in his own words.
The general thinking is that the indigenisation and empowerment initiative has slowed down, but I wouldn’t agree to that.
The problem in our country is that people’s focus on indigenisation and economic empowerment was mainly centred on the 51/49 percent threshold.
Whenever you talk about indigenisation, or economic empowerment to locals or even investors, people were keen to talk about 51/49. Many people might not be aware, but the new dispensation has now done away with that 51/49 threshold for the main reason that it was scaring away investors.
I have heard investors saying the moment we talk of 51 percent, it presupposes that the one with the 51 percent has full control as the major shareholder. The problem that arises is that when you bring your own money, when you bring your own technology you can’t expect someone else to take full control of the company.
So some of the investors were advocating a lesser percentage for the indigenous people and a higher percentage for the investor who is bringing in technology and financial investment.
However, the new dispensation has done away with the 51/49 percent threshold. It should be noted that indigenisation and empowerment threshold had so many facets.
I think, people would probably look at it as if indigenisation has slowed down because of the scrapping of that threshold, but its only one aspect of a much bigger programme. As a party, we have taken it upon ourselves to review not just the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, but the whole policy.
We need some things to be reviewed and it is up to Government to repeal the current Act or to amend it with our input there. But as Zanu-PF, we want to come up with a policy document that we think will be in the best interest of every Zimbabwean. In doing so, we need to consult various stakeholders, internally and externally.
Our internal stakeholders are the organs of the Party; that is the Main Wing, the Women’s League and the Youth League and other affiliate organisations representing war veterans, disabled people and other various departments of the Party should give their input.
We also have external stakeholders in terms of Government ministries, which we must consult as they are the ones who will implement some of these policies.
We also need to consult the private sector and we held a breakfast meeting recently, which was the entry point of our consultation exercise with them to hear their views on this particular important issue.
I think by end of August or beginning of September, we should be able to present our proposal on the way forward to the Politburo.
A lot of ground is being covered and our fervent hope is to come out with a proposal that will be beneficial to all Zimbabweans and, at the same time, luring investors. The major reason we are consulting is to come up with a win-win situation between investors and locals.
We talk of equity, which we consider as one form of empowerment. There are many other forms and, in my own view, we have to look at other forms rather than equity.
When we talk of equity as an empowerment, the problem that arises is that if we are a developing economy, it takes long for a shareholder to realise the dividend.
This is so because the economy is growing and it has so many other challenges.
There is no guarantee that you can get a dividend because dividends are only declared by the shareholder when it’s appropriate. A company might make profits and shareholders may decide to redirect those profits back to boost the company, so it can take long time before dividends are declared.
Therefore, some people may argue that lets look at other forms of empowerment; let’s look at empowering our people through procurement where preferential procurement is given to the indigenous companies.
We also have to look at the linkages between SMEs and established corporates so that big corporates are encouraged, by law or by persuasion, to offer services to SMEs and vice versa. There are also various forms that can link SMEs and big corporates and these can be explored. We can also look at local content as a form of empowerment and I am happy that the local content policy has been approved by Cabinet.
We were working on the issue when I was still minister and I am happy that my successor has taken it up and brought it before Cabinet. Local content is also a way of empowerment.
We can also look at training and development as an empowerment where companies, private or state enterprises are required to commit part of their investment into training, development and capacity building.
There are also sectors that have been reserved for locals. Again, we can find ways on how they can be empowered, how they can be given training and capacitate them to perform well. Training and development is critical, it is an empowering tool in itself. Once one acquired a certain skill, it will only disappear when you die. So training development, skills development is really to me a very big empowerment tool.
In the past, a number of companies where coming up with apprentice training that was meant not only for the company itself, but also training for the Nation. We want to look at it again and see how much it can be used for nation development.
As a department, we are also looking at the processes investors go through in order to set shop in the country.
This issue of ease of doing business might not be under my purview, but we can make recommendations. My knowledge is that there is a lot of work that has been done already. The work is being spearheaded by the Office of the President and Cabinet.
Government is also working on the Zimbabwe Development Agency (ZIDA) Bill which is currently before Parliament.
This is an agency that will speed up the ease of doing business in the country.
So we are not lagging behind, a lot of progress has been made, a lot of ground has been covered in the quest to make Zimbabwe completely open for business.
I also understand that the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, Industry and International Trade is currently doing the usual consultations with the public on ZIDA.
Finally, we always find ways of empowering our people, but they should have a zeal to empower themselves as well.
There is room for people to improve themselves, there are quite a lot of programmes in that regard
There are openings out there for people to improve themselves. People should continue to learn and improve their skills in their areas of interest. But also as a Party we will continue to find ways of empowering our people. Women and Youths should take advantage of the Women and Youth banks to finance their projects.
The thrust of the new dispensation is to have an empowered society.
There are also other funding initiatives for SMEs and people should also take advantage of such initiatives as well.