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attacks planned company seizures
Chris Chinaka, Reuters
March 19, 2010
central bank governor on Thursday attacked as "reckless"
a drive by President Robert Mugabe's party to force foreign-owned
companies to cede majority shareholdings to local black businessmen.
Gideon Gono, a close
ally of Mugabe whose position at the central bank is opposed by
the president's rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said in
a newspaper interview the move was scaring off investment badly
needed to revive a battered economy trying to recover from a decades-long
In an unusually fierce
attack on policy strongly backed by his benefactor, Gono told privately-owned
weekly Financial Gazette newspaper that the black empowerment drive
smacked of racism, and would hurt efforts by a power-sharing government
formed by Mugabe and Tsvangirai a year ago to fix the economy.
"The last six months
have seen a flood of interest in the economy from both friends and
foes and we must not disturb the momentum by being reckless, inconsistent
and self-contradictory with our pronouncements or with what we say
or do," he said.
"You don't shoot
yourself in the foot during a time of scarce capital availability
and neither do you start any new wars before concluding battles
of yesteryear," he said in reference to Mugabe's controversial
seizures of white-owned commercial farms which critics say triggered
Zimbabwe's economic collapse.
calendars and sovereign debates must never be dictated by outsiders,
it is an act of madness for a family to engage in domestic quarrels
at a time when the whole village is up and about its business,"
money-printing policies at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe between
2003 and 2008 is blamed for the world's worst hyper-inflationary
crisis in the last 20 years, said the empowerment drive had attracted
unnecessary media attention of a people "trying to dispossess
one another of this and that".
The central bank governor
called for protection for foreign-owned banks like Barclays BAC.L,
Standard Chartered (STAN.L), Central African Building Society owned
by Old Mutual (OMLJ.J), and MBCA owned by South Africa's Nedbank
(NEDJ.J), which he said were targets of "vulture-style"
seizures by some cartels of black businessmen.
"The firm policy
position of the Reserve Bank is that all existing foreign-owned
banks must be left under the current parentage ownership to optimise
on the capacity of domestic economy to penetrate international financial
markets," he said.
"Our political leaders
must take the lead in openly condemning what we see as self-centred
approaches that are evolving under the guise of indigenisation and
Gono said the central
bank was ready to award new licences to blacks to run their own
banks, and suggested Zimbabwe could pursue a programme of empowering
historically disadvantaged blacks by giving them preference in government
contracts while allowing some joint ventures with foreigners on
a willing-seller-willing buyer basis.
for Democratic Change (MDC) says it is trying to persuade Mugabe's
ZANU-PF party to shelve the empowerment law, and Gono said he hoped
current public consultations on the programme would also help the
government on how to tackle the issue.
Asked whether investors
were justified in their fears of Zimbabwe's black empowerment drive,
he said: "Absolutely, those fears are justified in the sense
that most of those to be affected came in as a result of the country
calling on them to come in and invest in our landscape."
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