None so deaf as Minister Kasukuwere
By Erich Block
It has oft been said that “there are none so deaf as those as will not hear”. If that is so, which it surely is, the deafest of all is undoubtedly Zimbabwe’s Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, Saviour Kasukuwere.
Kasukuwere dogmatically refuses to hear any criticism whatsoever of Zimbabwe’s declared policies and intentions for the vesting of ownership and control of the Zimbabwean economy in the hands of “indigenous” Zimbabweans, as rigidly disregards any suggestions for modification or variation of those policies and intentions, and contemptuously dismisses all warnings of the catastrophic consequences of such methods of indigenisation and economic empowerment.
Albeit not in consequence of any physical defect, the minister is so stone-deaf (on issues of Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, but not on other issues, ie he suffers selective hearing deficiencies) that he hears nothing that is said in opposition to his polices, no matter whom the person may be.
He demonstrated this almost two months ago, when he walked out of an indigenisation and economic empowerment conference, for he was unwilling to hear the authoritative criticisms of Professor Tony Hawkins (one of Zimbabwe’s most renowned economists). The minister has done likewise on numerous other occasions ever since the gazetting of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Regulations. Most recently, he scathingly dismissed the well-intentioned comments by the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Gideon Gono.
Admittedly, many of those concerned comments were made publicly by the governor, (and why should they not be when they are on an issue of concern to all Zimbabwe’s population), but undoubtedly he also voiced his concerns non-publicly, within the corridors of government. But this has not deterred Kasukuwere from saying: “We have seen the criticism from the Reserve Bank Governor. We will only take note of him when he stops his megaphone criticism. When they are ready to talk we will listen, but in the meanwhile we will not listen to this kind of megaphone criticism.”
In other words, the minister is only possibly willing to have any regard to the views of others if those views are expressed behind closed doors, on a one-on-one basis, and not if they are voiced publicly. And, based upon the Zimbabwean experience of the last few months, it appears improbable that the minister is even prepared to consider views at variance with his own when they are conveyed to him privately. He is obdurately determined to proceed with his Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment intents, irrespective of the evidence of the consequential economic disaster, and of the inevitable intensified impoverisation of more and more of the population. Clearly, his self-inflicted hearing deficiency is compounded by myopia.
The minister has a blatant disregard for the irrefutable fact that a prerequisite for recovery of the Zimbabwe economy, and for its subsequent development and growth, is that substantial foreign investment be forthcoming, and that will not occur when the foreign investors are forced to be minority participants in the ventures funded by them. They also provide technology transfer, managerial inputs, access to international markets, franchises and licences, and much else.
Any investor seeks investment security, and a key element of that security is managerial and operational control, in contradistinction to being dominated and subordinated by others. That the legislation has fuelled intense fears of investment security, and hence has caused an immense demotivation to invest in Zimbabwe is blatantly apparent from events in the last few months, but the minister is oblivious to that (although such oblivion is undoubtedly deliberately self-generated). Among the proof of loss of critically-needed investor interest is:
Trade and investment missions from four European Union countries, and from one Commonwealth country, have been summarily cancelled;
Major mining houses in South Africa, Canada, USA, Australia and elsewhere have put on hold intended pursuit of new investments in Zimbabwe and, in many instances, enhancement, development and growth of their existing investments;
Major foreign investor initiatives targetted at Zimbabwe’s manufacturing, tourism, financial services and commercial sectors have been “put on hold”, or terminated;
International risk analyses have lowered Zimbabwe’s investment security rating to a lower level than ever before, placing Zimbabwe amongst the perceived five highest investment risk destinations.
Concurrently, various greatly-needed international lines of credit required to revitalise Zimbabwe’s money market and to provide all economic sectors with working capital, and which had been resolved upon by international financers, have not been progressed. This has grievously impaired the economic recovery so positively commenced in 2009.
The minister also allows his blinkered and auditory deficiencies to obscure the fact that his legislation can in no manner achieve wideranging economic empowerment. Those of Zimbabwe’s indigenous population as have the monetary resources to acquire controlling interests in Zimbabwean enterprise are few and far between. Those sufficiently endowed to acquire such interests at fair value are very few.
Effectively, only those already economically empowered would be able to fund acquisition of existing enterprises, and to fund the ongoing operations of those enterprises. Thus, his legislation, and his empowerment intentions, can at best further empower the already empowered few, and not the masses who need such empowerment. And many of those few are also lacking in the operational expertise necessary for the successful continuance and development of the businesses.
At the same time, he has fuelled chaos within the existing economic environment. The few indigenous economically-endowed are vigorously demanding the “sale” to them of controlling interests in mines and industries which they covet, frequently resorting to actual or implied threats of recourse to the politically-empowered in the absence of their demands being met.
Groups of “war veterans” (be they genuine or pseudo) are aggressively demanding the transfer of enterprise ownership to them. So too are spokesmen of affirmative action, and of labour representative bodies, without any regard to the non-availability of financial and other resources. These include the Bulawayo Chapter Affirmative Action Group Secretary, Retired Major Clement Bishop Malaba, and Bulawayo Urban Residents’ Association Chairman, Winus Dube.
The minister deludes himself that the indigenisation of enterprise can be funded by the intended National Indigenisation Fund, chaired by David Chapfika, but that fund has no resources, and the intention is to access funds by imposing levies upon private sector enterprises. In other words, businesses must provide the funds to pay for the purchase of the shares, in their businesses, by others. This is disguised expropriation, in disregard for justice and equity, for Bilateral Investment Promotiom and Protection Agreements, and for international economic norms.
It is indisputable that Zimbabwe needs to vigorously and effectively pursue indigenisation and economic empowerment, but that must be done constructively, and beneficially to the majority and not the few, and to the advantage of the economy. The minster’s stance is diametrically opposite. He urgently needs effective hearing aids and non-misted spectacles, so that he can hear and see that which he presently cannot.