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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
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