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Indigenising Zimbabwe
BBC News
September 28, 2007

A Zimbabwean CEO for a foreign-owned company in Harare tells the BBC News website what he thinks about the new law that parliament passed on Wednesday, giving the state controlling stakes in foreign-owned businesses, including banks and mines. He did not want his name published.

This morning when I got into the office, we - mostly middle management and above - were all talking about this new law and its implications. To a certain extent I am worried about my job; you can never be so sure. It is on all of our minds. Everyone is worried. Regardless of this law though, some companies - including the foreign-owned one I work for - have been discussing whether they stay or go for some time now. The economic situation here makes the notion of staying in business a great challenge. But we don't know when these changes have to be made by - the intricacies have not been spelt out yet. Or how it will be put into practice. Maybe it is just an election gimmick? No-one knows yet. Another factor to consider is who the government sees as indigenous and who they don't... Business owners may think that if they hold a Zimbabwean passport then they are OK. But the government has said before that those who make up Zimbabwe's coloured [mixed-race], Indian and white communities were at an advantage during colonial times. So maybe the so-called colonialism benefiters will be forced to relinquish their shareholds.

But a person's ability to run a business successfully doesn't depend on their skin colour. What you need is the best person for the job. It remains to be seen what will happen. You know, we have heard a lot of stories about their intentions but we are yet to see whether or not they have a strategic plan. I have serious fears for the foreign banks like Barclays and South Africa's Stanbic. Zimbabwe's foreign credit lines must be kept open. Most of the country's corporate companies have their accounts with Barclays and the like. Not with the indigenous banks. And to keep going Zimbabwe needs to keep the little foreign investment it still has. And now, who will be prepared to only accept a 49% ownership? We saw exactly this happen in Zambia during the 1970s and early 1980s and it ruined the economy. All the companies went down and most of them that went down have never got back. That's the major concern. Another thing in the press are reports that the foreign companies doing business here support the opposition and their agenda is for regime change. Maybe by passing this law the government thinks that stopping these foreign-owned companies from operating, will mean financial support for the opposition dries up.

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