The Indigenisation Scam

Zanu PF is guilty of many things – the collapse of the economy, the genocide of Ghukurahundi and the wholesale destruction of homes in Murambatsvina. Everybody recognises these as gross human rights abuse and crimes against humanity. But when their outlandish actions are associated with, not only the ruthless pursuit of their political ends but also with wholesale theft and lawlessness; then we need to sit up and take notice.

In 2000 they recognised that they faced a serious threat to their hegemony in the form of the MDC and that the balance of electoral power lay in the hands of 600 000 farm workers and their families on 6000 large commercial farms. So they decided to eliminate them and in the past decade they have done so. In doing so they destroyed the agricultural industry, displaced millions of people, triggered the consequential collapse of the industrial and commercial economy and wiping out billions of economic value.

What people do not see is that this process was basically driven by greed and avarice. Like pirates of old in the West Indies, they were told by their King that they could keep what they could take. They walked into homes, took over hundreds of thousands of cattle, 20 000 tractors, combine harvesters, irrigation equipment capable of watering 280 000 hectares. They took furniture, vehicles and left thousands of farmers and their workers homeless and destitute. All for nothing: a reward for doing their masters business.

When we thought we had seen it all, genocide, mass relocation of populations, systematic destruction of value and theft of private assets on a massive scale, Zanu PF showed us that they still had reserves of evil and ingenuity in them and they invented indigenisation.

It started innocuously enough in 2007 when they introduced the Indigenisation Act into Parliament. MDC did not have enough votes in the Lower House to block the new Act but they fought it and eventually when it came to the vote the MDC legislators walked out rather than be associated with the Act that we recognised would have a profound impact on the economy, freeze new investment and engineer a massive transfer of value from shareholders to a politically selected minority. It was the industrial and commercial version of the farm invasions.

They sat on the Act until December 2010 when Zanu PF recognised a new electoral threat from the MDC in the form of the rapidly recovering economy. Economic activity expanded by nearly 400 per cent in 2009, then doubled again in 2010. Suddenly Zimbabwe was no longer a basket case, food was in free supply and a new optimism was seeping into the fabric of our society. Major new investments were being planned - $30 billion of new investment in mining, $10 billion in the steel industry, billions in projects to generate power, rehabilitate roads and railways.

Zanu PF recognised that none of this was being attributed to them, all the credit was going to the MDC. If this was not stopped the electoral consequences were obvious. So they launched their “indigenisation” drive. They took the Act passed in 2007 and drafted new regulations that were designed to give legs to the Act. A young, ruthless politician, Savior Kasukawere was put in charge of the project and he took to the streets with enthusiasm. MDC reacted by saying that the whole exercise was illegal and that business should ignore the threats.

But despite this, in the past two years not a single company has taken the Minister or the Act or the regulations to Court. We have no doubt that had they done so they would have been successful. But business, cowed by years of Zanu PF bullying and threats simply took reactive action and capital fight accelerated and inward investment stopped. The liquidity crisis escalated over night. Suddenly the upsurge in economic activity and optimism vanished.

Kasukawere marshaled his troops – formed an indigenisation Board and wrote to companies throughout the country saying that if they did not comply they would lose their licenses to operate, if they did not respond they would deny them work permits and generally make life impossible. Companies large and small worried about how to respond, they all feared the arrival of thugs at the door, major international firms convened emergency Board meetings and hired expensive lawyers. The stock market fell back to the lowest levels in our muddled history and stuck there for three years.

Some organisations rushed to “comply”, they found “indigenous” individuals and engineered arrangements to bring them in as shareholders without disrupting the normal operations of the company. Others simply said that if “they” wanted 51 per cent, they would have to take 100 per cent and that their price was “$X”.

Others sent emissaries who were acceptable to the thugs in Zanu PF to ask, “OK, what is it that you want?” The answer to that question came in many guises, but always involved money. Most recently the duplicity of both the companies and the indigenisation gang has become evident and plain. I have seen two indigenisation deals for major Companies. They are very revealing – they talk of complying but give nothing away, they give Kasukawere a piece of worthless paper that he can wave in the air and claim victory. In return Kasukawere instructed the firms to deal with his “consultants” and they in turn produced an invoice for millions.

Who benefits from this mayhem and blatant corruption? Not the people, not the poor and marginalized or the unemployed. In fact it just made every ones lives more miserable and difficult. But in return it froze the economic recovery (the real objective), denied MDC the claim to have put Zimbabwe back on its feet and opened the door to opportunities for enrichment for a small Zanu PF connected elite. What more could you ask, achieve your political objective and get rich in the process! Kasukawere is in the process of building a 2400 square metre luxury mansion in Harare at a cost of millions of dollars when just a few months ago he could not pay his bills.

What astounds me is not just the ruthless nature of these operations but also the near complete absence of any moral content or ethical considerations. Despite its Marxist roots, Zanu PF has evolved into a Khmer Rouge movement that has destroyed the economy, stolen its accumulated wealth and impoverished the people they are supposed to govern. Our people are poorer, less educated and healthy than they were 30 years ago and all this collection of thieves and pirates can do is gorge themselves on the carcass of the country they have so nearly destroyed. As Tony Hawkins said the other day “indigenisation is just a Ponzi scheme.”

It’s time for change and the future is in our hands.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 15th March 2013