Friday, December 25, 2015

No Rhetorical Lollipops About Indigenization
December 19, 2015
Opinion & Analysis
Stephen Mpofu
Zimbabwe Chronicle

IN the long years of the struggle for independence in Africa, Europe regarded her colonies on the continent as “possessions” over which colonisers claimed carte blanche rights to do whatever took their fancy concerning the rich natural resources in the occupied countries.

Their rallying call then was that both the colonial country and its riches belonged to the foreign, colonial powers.

When Africans gained independence, the foreign powers wished that the blacks did not go beyond indigenising colonial governments so that the ransacking of Africa’s riches for the enrichment of erstwhile colonial powers would continue without let or hindrance.

Those Zimbabweans who lived through colonial Rhodesia will remember that well known but infamous slogan by white settlers who often told blacks to their face “lo country yena ka wena; lo money yena kathina” or; “the country is yours; the money is ours”.

That racists’ belief remains ever so entrenched today in the minds of so many white foreign-owned companies that, 35 years into freedom and independence, at best continue to pay lip service to the indigenisation policy and black economic empowerment, and at worst remain totally indifferent to giving indigenous Zimbabweans a stake in the development and control of their economy.

Which suggests to all right thinking people that blacks, not only in Zimbabwe, but also elsewhere in free Africa should be content with political independence while their economies remain as the white man’s untouchable sacred cows.

Yet it is indisputable that political independence minus economic independence amounts to a hollow freedom and sovereignty.

The much-vaunted indigenisation and economic empowerment chorus has and continues to be blighted by a loud discord by some companies including those mining Zimbabwe’s abundant mineral resources such as diamonds among others.

Some of the companies promised to rope in blacks as part-owners with a 51 percent share holding, but all that is bogged down in rhetoric.

Other companies in the mining sector for instance, go so far as to tell the government they will give money towards community share ownership schemes.

But guess what? They keep the government authorities sucking on lollipops as though the authorities were crying children who are given the sweets to silence them while promises are made to do better things for them.

But the Zimbabwean government should not be expected to settle for lollypops while the indigenisation and economic empowerment act gathers layer upon layer of dust.

It is therefore understandable that President Mugabe has recently said enough is enough and has given January next year as the deadline for those companies dragging their feet on indigenisation, or are totally indisposed to indigenising their enterprises, to start to run with the policy that will make Zimbabweans feel they are truly owners of a country for which they fought so much to liberate, in the process losing lives or limbs for some of them.

An economy of Zimbabweans by Zimbabweans for Zimbabweans will be a logical conclusion of the armed revolution. But this does not, however, suggest in any way that foreign investors are no longer important players in the economic development of our country. Far from it.

What this does suggest, however, is a reversal of the bromide: he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Investors should not call the tune, or dictate conditions under which to bring their money into the country. Not anymore.

On the contrary, the piper and instrument-owner now has the liberty to say with what tune she/he will serenade the investor in welcoming the foreign capital bearer.

“Manje lo country na lo money yena kathina” is the tune to which foreign investors should now dance.

But, as to be expected in a country once in the grip of foreigners, there will always be imperialist lackeys, such as those within Zimbabwe and outside, who will try to get our president to capitulate to external forces hell-bent on exercising their hegemonic powers by weakening or liquidating the Indigenous and Economic Empowerment Act and in that way render Zimbabweans subservient to imperialism both politically and economically.

Unfortunately for those colonial bootlickers, however, times have changed and with that progressive thinking and positive action are now in purview among main stream Zimbabweans.

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