GOVERNMENT has softened its stance on the indigenisation of banks, saying the institutions will not be required to immediately turn over their majority stakes to indigenous Zimbabweans. In a marked change in approach, Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Francis Nhema told a two-day indigenisation and empowerment conference organised by Zanu-PF in Harare yesterday that the indigenisation of foreign-owned banks would be done gradually.
“If you are going into sections of the service industry like banks, manufacturing and others where there is no resource to begin with then you cannot say the 51 percent is mine,” said Minister Nhema.
He, however, said that foreign-owned companies that were exploiting the country’s natural resources would be immediately compelled to do so.
This strengthens his remarks at the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries congress in Bulawayo last week that while the empowerment programme would be “vigorously” pursued, it would not be implemented in a “one size fits all approach”.
Under the indigenisation laws, foreign-owned companies are required to transfer at least 51 percent of their shareholding to black indigenous Zimbabweans.
Foreign-owned banks that are currently operating in the country include Barclays, Standard Chartered, Standard Bank’s Stanbic, Ecobank and MBCA, which is partly owned by Nedbank .
The minister said family business owned by foreigners would not be affected by the law.
“If it is a family business we do not interfere with those ones because the idea of creating wealth and empowering people is more important,” said the minister.
Minister Nhema also castigated youths who were failing to pay loans they accessed under the indigenisation fund saying this would compromise the continuity of the programme, since it was a revolving fund.
He said Government has only managed to recover 30 percent of loans advanced.
“Empowerment requires discipline among us and as such we should play by the rules of business,” he said.
The minister added that mining companies would be required to submit company policies which state how they were training unemployed youths annually.
Minister Nhema urged indigenous people who had benefited from the indigenisation and empowerment programme and were now sitting on boards to assist their communities.
He said they should engage fellow unemployed Zimbabweans in menial jobs such as logistics, cleaning and ICT departments in order to portray the real meaning of empowerment.
He added that Government and the private sector wanted to finance projects that were sustainable and had potentential for good returns.
The two-day conference was attended by Zanu-PF officials at national, district and provincial levels.
It was held under the theme “Indigenise, empower, develop, create employment”.