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Zimbabwe's Parliament Passes Law to 'Indigenize' Foreign Companies


Zimbabwe's parliament has passed a law to give black people majority control of foreign-owned companies, including mines and banks.

President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF Party pushed the bill through parliament Wednesday as opposition lawmakers walked out in protest. ZANU-PF has a majority in the parliament.

The law calls for indigenous Zimbabweans to own at least 51 percent of all public companies. Mr. Mugabe's government introduced the bill in June as part of a drive to empower the poor black majority.

Zimbabwean critics of the bill warn it could scare away the few foreign investors left in the impoverished African country. Several foreign banks with branches in Zimbabwe have said they may pull out if they lose their majority stakes.

Members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change say the law is designed to enrich Zimbabwe's elite and boost support for the ruling party ahead of elections next March.

Zimbabwe's indigenisation and empowerment minister, Paul Mangwana says whites will only be allowed to keep their businesses if they can prove they suffered discrimination during Zimbabwe's colonial era.

Zimbabwe's economy is in crisis, with 80 percent unemployment and annual inflation of more than 6,000 percent.

Critics blame the situation largely on the government's economic policies, especially the transfer of white-owned farmland to blacks with little farming experience. Zimbabwe's agricultural production has plunged since the move, contributing to food shortages and inflation.

President Mugabe blames the economic problems on British and American sanctions against his government.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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