EMPOWERMENT Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has claimed that an “attitude problem” at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) is holding back efforts to force foreign-owned banks comply with the country indigenisation laws.
Kasukuwere said Friday that while the mining sector was largely complaint with the requirement to localise majority control and ownership of their operations, little progress had been made in the financial sector.
“Over-all, the majority of entities in the mining sector have complied with the indigenisation laws, including the major companies. They have realised that the only way they can have sustainable operations is by complying with the law,” the Zanu PF Minister told the Herald.
“The one area which has given us some challenges is the financial services sector. If we do not succeed in indigenising (this) services sector then all our efforts to indigenise the economy will be to no avail.
“(The problem) is not about (the banks’) indifference to the law but we have individuals who have gone to encourage them to disregard the law and make unwarranted statements vilifying the process.”
The Zanu PF minister wants to see foreign-owned banks such as the British-based Barclays and Standard Chartered as well as local units of South African institutions such as Stanbic and MBCA come under local ownership and control.
But Finance Minister Tendai Biti and RBZ chief, Gideon Gono, have urged caution, warning that rushed application of the law could rattle a key but fragile sector of the economy.
Biti and his MDC-T party insist the indigenisation programme, which is being pushed by Zanu PF, is an election gimmick that merely makes the rich richer and does not address the country’s jobs crisis.
Gono has also expressed reservations over the current equity-based programme and suggested an alternative approach which he also fleshed out in local weekly on Thursday.
But in remarks that may have been directed at the RBZ governor, Kasukuwere said: “What I am doing is implementing the law, but the country is full of noisemakers who want to be seen everywhere, in churches, at funerals and speak about things they do not even know.
“The statements they are saying (criticising the empowerment drive) are ego trips. They are saying things that are against the law and are a danger even to the interests of the country.”
The pair memorably clashed over the issue two years ago, with the RBZ chief suggesting that Kasukuwere was not “fit and proper person” to deal with banks having been involved with the failed Genesis Bank.
Kasukuwere replied in kind, dismissing the RBZ Governor as immature, adding: “Let’s not turn (this) into unwarranted personal attacks. Discharging national responsibilities requires maturity and sober reasoning.”
They later called a truce but Gono still maintains that, instead of muscling their way into existing institutions, Zimbabweans interested in joining the banking sector should approach the RBZ for licences or takeover undercapitalised banks, giving the example of Mines Minister Obert Mpofu.
“The example of Minister of Mines Obert Mpofu who came forward with his money and sought permission to take over ZABG bank which was ailing then is a case in point,” he said recently.
“We gave him two years within which to regularise the ownership structure of that bank to a maximum of 25 per cent for any single shareholder which he committed to do but for the time being he has put in money and is a 99,9 per cent shareholder.”