FOR an indigenisation and empowerment programme to be effective, it must be seen to be fair, transparent and equitable. It cannot be a means of retribution implemented in anger, but of necessity. It has to be a methodology of placing resources in the hands of previously disadvantaged people to enable them to move from the terraces to the pitch of economic activity. It should not be a short-term self-enrichment programme but a long-term wealth creation process.
One school of thought is that for enterprises to thrive, it is only necessary to create a conducive environment. Then we will see the emergence of a crop of new entrepreneurs from previously disadvantaged communities coming up.
I do not see these issues as mutually exclusive. While creating the right conditions is very important, sometimes coming from a historically divided environment like ours, it is necessary to positively discriminate in favour of those who were previously outside the food chain to also come to the table.
I never forget the not too old story of my own grandfather. My father and his siblings grew up without him and even went on to marry their spouses while he was still toiling in the mines in South Africa. When he eventually showed up in Zimbabwe, all he had was a hat, a stylish walking stick, a large over coat (ijazi) and lots of stories.
While this was the genesis of the wealth of people like the Openheimers, for the thousands of Zimbabweans like him who went underground it was an impoverishing and dehumanising experience.
The first stop for any empowerment programme stake ought to be the workers. Never again should we allow workers who spend a good part of their lives working for an entity to walk away with nothing. It is not enough to replace the previous owners of a business with new indigenous owners then declare the process complete while the workers are still far below the poverty line.
The second beneficiary group, particularly for extractive industries, should be the geographic area where that resource is extracted from. It is despicable that some areas where resources are extracted remain in dire poverty. It is important that we do things different from previous exploitative owners. We should promote our own brand of entrepreneurship immersed in our own ubuntu philosophy.
I personally do not have many intersecting areas of agreement with Gideon Gono, particularly after what he did to our money and our savings, but I do agree with his recent utterances on indigenisation in Zimbabwe. I agree that those who have already benefited from the land reform should move to the back of the queue. We cannot have the same usual suspects always at the front of the queue.
I have no problem with clever and entrepreneurs using their competitive edge to accumulate multiple businesses. My only problem only arises when public funds are used by a few at the expense of a silent majority.
For equitability to reign, then each person should have only one shot to use public funds to purchase shares in any empowerment deal. I also believe there should be a moratorium on selling of say five years for those who buy shares through an empowerment arrangement to prevent predatory tendencies. Of course those using private funds should not be restricted by this arrangement.
When I meet many Zimbabwean politicians they always complain about skills shortage in many areas of the Zimbabwean economy. It is also necessary for them to become more innovative in how they approach the skills requirements. What is necessary is for the required expertise to be available when required. This business of owning an employee for life is so eighties thinking.
The indigenous programme can also be used to creatively attract expertise back into the country, particularly the much younger generation. Getting them to be involved in share purchase back home is to get them interested in their own home country. They say wherever your treasure is, that is where your heart is also.
I hear a good number of the large metros in Zimbabwe do not have enough plumbers as one example. To control plumbers, the councils would give them lifelong employment. Even when there were no incidents, in that precinct the plumbers would sit around at the workshop and twiddle their thumbs. This was not efficient use of human resources. Is it not better to tender out this type of work to private individuals and companies?
Instead of being terrified by the loss of control, the councils could concentrate on setting standards in this industry. For example, the council could split the various areas into manageable demarcations where response to incidents would be requiring within a tight time frame.
The services of soil scientists may be required for as little as twice a year. This expertise does not always have to sit in house. Perhaps it would be required just to determine the composition of your soil so as to be able to apply the correct fertilizer ratios. This would require more efficient spread of expertise where it is needed. A quantity survey is required for specific discreet steps in the construction continuum.
There is a general belief amongst some of our communities that an expert looks different from us, and really has to come from afar. Using that thinking, an eye specialist from China would be considered to be a better expert than our own world renowned Guramatunhu from next door.
We have a Zimbabwean acquaintance who is an expert hydro-geologist who runs an independency practice here in Johannesburg. He only shows up when he has to locate and determine the quantity of some underground water resources. The various government departments and private companies do not want to employ him permanently, they are just happy his expertise is available when required.
By letting these young skilled Zimbabwean people living outside the country also participate in the empowerment programmes, we not only give them a sense of belonging but we also invite them to be interested in their heritage with potential that they could eventually return.
Tafirenyika L. Makunike is the chairman and founder of Nepachem cc (www.nepachem.co.za), an enterprise development and consulting company. He writes in his personal capacity