#263Chat Recap on Indigenisation

Posted on 23/01/2013


In late September 2012, I started #263Chat primarily as a way of getting Zimbabweans on Twitter and others to join so we could all take part in a national discussion about our beloved, Zimbabwe. The original idea was to hold these Twitter-based chats every fortnight, discuss and answer 5 questions over an hour period. However the general consensus after the first #263Chat was that waiting every fortnight to have this much needed conversation was way too long. I obliged and changed the format. As a result #263Chat is now a weekly discussion taking place every Tuesday at 6pm CAT, this time with one topic and therefore one main focus.

On 30th October 2012, we embarked on the usual weekly #263Chat on Indigenisation focusing on the infamous “Indigenisation & Empowerment Programme”. The chat was generally a very lively affair to begin with, however one element was evident from the very start. Very few people knew anything of substance about the actual Act as illustrated by one tweet: ‘#263Chat Indigenisation has become a political tagline and brand word for our youth minister, so much I dunno what it means??’ In fact no one really understood anything about it and more importantly what it meant to them personally. That was aproblem. The first few minutes of the conversation revealed several major misconceptions:

  • This act was designed to ‘rob’ white Zimbabweans of their hard earned businesses and simply ‘hand’ them over to black Zimbabweans
  • Indigenisation is similar in practice to another infamous programme – the Land Reform Programme
  • Indigenisation will cause the same kind of economic and social issues as the Land Reform did

What I have since gathered is that there is a higher than expected level of ignorance relating to the Indigenisation Act itself from all kinds of people. Many fear a repeat of a seemingly badly implemented Land Reform Programme. Most judge indigenisation when in fact they don’t even understand the nuances of the widely available document. Many didn’t even know it was available to the public, yet many of them have numerous theories about what this act actually means for Zimbabwe and more so their own lives. Like someone tweeted and in doing so reminded me of the reality, democracy, like indigenisation, is a process and not an event. It will take time and patience for all involved.

My initial issue without reading the Act itself, was how to define this ‘indigenous’ person. How does this non-indigenous Zimbabwean person ‘really’ feel about this Act? Does it even matter to those in charge? I have many Zimbabwean friends from all kinds of backgrounds including those who mixed race, white, Indians and so forth. How would my friends feel if I was to benefit immensely (or otherwise) from all this, simply because I was the ‘indigenous’ type? Wouldn’t that create another social class which we would have to deal with in later years? That is one of my main concerns. How many of us are looking at the social issues that might arise as a result of the full implementation of indigenisation? I worry about some of the social issues taking place in South Africa right now. Given the implementation of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), I see the nouveau riche every time I visit South Africa. I also see a widening gap between those who have and those who don’t. I worry about the same thing happening here; as if the gap between the 85% at the bottom and 3% at the top isn’t bad enough.

Don’t get me wrong; in principle the idea of Indigenisation & Empowerment is a very noble one. A large section of people during #263Chat agreed with this sentiment, however the Land Reform Programme has understandably clouded their judgement and understanding of the mechanics behind this new ‘venture’. The fact that we still don’t know the recipients of these farms and this continues to be a cause of concern for some, even now. The fear is that we could embark on a similar programme benefitting only the well connected whereas the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act was designed to empower the previously disadvantaged amongst other things. Another concern raised by some during#263Chat was the issue of realistically connecting the resources from say the 51% Zimplats would concede to the Zimbabwean government and how that would then be linked to the actual recipient, for example in this case my aunt in the village. How would she know that she was entitled to some of this 51% at the some point in the future? These are some the practical questions that require detailed explanation from those in charge. Having said that though, of late I have seen more communication and public meetings from the Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment, Saviour Kasukuwere, so things are changing. We hope.

As I conclude this lengthy subject, I often wonder why we focused on Indigenisation and not privatisation. The details of the parastatals according to Zimbabwean government website are found here. There are approximately 90 odd organisations; some of which will always be parastatals but others are otherwise viable businesses given the necessary resources and time. I have always wondered why we didn’t pursue this avenue first before embarking on the Indigenisation & Empowerment Programme. Many of these parastatals are loss-making enterprises which require massive investment to turn around as they service the needs of the wider economy. To me, it would seem like it was an easier programme to pursue and in the process we would then learn how to integrate the beneficiaries of these kinds of programmes and the business world. We live in interesting times and I for one will be watching how things pan out going forward.

This article is also published on Africa on the Blog