Zimbabwe said Wednesday there would be no ‘xenophobic’ seizure of foreign-owned businesses operating in the country under the government’s controversial economic empowerme nt drive.
The authorities have ordered all foreign-owned businesses to allocate 51 percent shareholding to locals, particularly in the mining sector, to economically empower them.
This follows the government’s seizure of White-owned farms for black resettlemen t in the last ten years.
The new empowerment drive has sparked fears among foreign businesses operating i n the country that the authorities planned a re-play of the farm seizures.
But Acting Mines Minister Saviour Kasukuwere told a mining conference here Wedne sday no ‘xenophobic’ seizure of assets was planned, and that foreign investors had nothing to fear.
”Indigenisation and economic empowerment have become an emotive subject as a re sult of misconceptions regarding government’s intention. Zimbabwe is open to do business; a lot of what has been said has tended to confu se the investing community,” he said.
Kasukuwere himself is the Minister of Economic Empowerment.
”This policy is not intended for a xenophobic dispossession but to ensure meani ngful participation by the local people in economic activities such as mining,” he said.
The empowerment drive is mainly focused on the mining industry, which is dominat ed by foreign multinational corporations.
Foreign businesses in the country have been ordered to come up with proposals on the shareholding they will give up for locals, and possible financing arrangements.
But the majority of the companies are reluctant to comply, while others are offe ring stakes of as little as 15 percent.
As a result of the controversy, many potential foreign investors in Zimbabwe hav e chosen to sit on the fence until the situation clears.