Zimbabwe Business Take Overs Stay, Mugabe Pledges

Angus Shaw, Comcast News, April 18, 2010

President Robert Mugabe pledged Sunday to move ahead with plans to hand over 51 percent control of businesses to blacks under a controversial program.

During ceremonies Sunday marking the 30th anniversary of independence from colonial rule, Mugabe said the proposed business take overs are a concrete example of policies followed over the last three decades that enable locals to own the nation’s resources.

The so-called indigenization and empowerment act was passed in 2008, when parliament was still dominated by Mugabe’s lawmakers. The law came into force on March 1 and all businesses were given to April 15 to hand in proposals as to how they’d hand over 51 percent of their company to blacks. This included foreign and white-owned businesses.

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Tsvangirai’s party on Wednesday said a meeting of the coalition cabinet chaired by Mugabe suspended the act, which defined “indigenous” Zimbabweans as those who suffered under colonial-era racial discrimination and their children born after independence in 1980, effectively excluding the nation’s 20,000 whites.

Saviour Kasukwere, a minister from Mugabe’s party in charge of empowerment policy, countered this and said Wednesday the law will go ahead, but it had only been delayed for more discussions.

The new so-called indigenization law “recognizes our sovereign right of ownership,” Mugabe told crowds at the 50,000 seat Chinese-built sports stadium in Harare.

Mugabe said the nation, governed by a yearlong coalition between his ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, faced continuing criticism from what he called “unrepentant and incorrigible racist forces.”

He said the coalition was proceeding with national reconstruction despite outside opposition from Western countries.

Seizures of white-owned farms and “now the indigenization program serve as concrete and living examples of empowerment . . . designed chiefly to redress the historic imbalances in ownership of the economy,” Mugabe said.

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Mugabe, 86, acknowledged a need for national healing Sunday “following a period of polarization and hostilities between our people.”

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