Zimbabwe to Enforce ‘Indigenization’

Posted September 27th, 2011 at 1:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Zimbabwe is threatening penalties against foreign firms that have not complied with a law to give black Zimbabweans a majority stake in their local operations.

The government required the foreign companies to submit so-called “indigenization plans” by this week.

Wilson Gwatiringa, who heads the government's Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Board, said Tuesday that more than 700 companies have not complied with the 2008 law.

He said his board would launch an audit, and that companies found on the wrong side of the law would face heavy penalties.

However, other Zimbabwean officials, including the country's ministers of industry and mining, played down the threat. They said no foreign-owned firms will be nationalized or forced out of business even if they do not comply with the program.

Economic analysts have warned that the law, if enforced, could prompt some companies to shut down and cost thousands of Zimbabweans their jobs.

Major foreign firms operating in Zimbabwe include mining giants Anglo American and Rio Tinto, and Barclays and Standard Chartered Banks.

Zimbabwe's economy went into a steep decline in the early 2000 after supporters of President Robert Mugabe began seizing white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to blacks. The seizures triggered a sharp fall in agricultural production, the backbone of the Zimbabwean economy.