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Zimbabwe Minister Backs Down on Business Takeovers


Zimbabwe Indigenization Minister Saviour Kasukawere says he will publish new laws Friday to replace ones he designed to give 51-percent control of most foreign-owned and Zimbabwe companies to blacks.

The Zimbabwe Indigenization Minister Saviour Kasukawere says indigenous people will have to buy their way into companies and each sector will have different margins of black involvement.

In February, he said any company worth more than $500,000 would have to give 51-percent shareholding to blacks. Some businesses, such as hairdressing would be reserved for blacks only.

The new laws sparked an outcry from the other partner in the unity government, the Movement for Democratic Change, local businessmen, and potential foreign investors. Kasukawere's colleagues in the unity government Cabinet said he had made the new laws without consultation and they went back to the drawing board.

The revised laws would insist new black shareholders buy their way into companies and the percentage they will be able to buy will be different in each sector. Sectoral committees would be formed to decide the percentage.

Zimbabwe's Chamber of Mines has proposed a minimum 15 percent shareholding for locals.

It will still be the first law in Zimbabwe that insists blacks must have significant shareholdings in all companies. Most of the large mining companies, particularly platinum producers are owned by South Africans.

Kasukawere says more than 500 companies have submitted indigenization plans. Economists point out there are very few white Zimbabwean businessmen left in the country and the industrial sector has shrunk by about 60 percent in the past 10 years.

One international miner in Johannesburg, who asked not to be identified, said even with new, more relaxed indigenization laws few want to invest in Zimbabwe because the country is still politically unstable.

Zimbabwe's inflation rate, which set records in 2008, dropped to zero after the U.S. dollar replaced the worthless Zimbabwe currency when the inclusive government was sworn into power in February 2009. Last week statistics produced by the government indicate that inflation has risen to six percent.

Zimbabwe has more than 80-percent unemployment, continues to import food, and depends heavily on Western donors for humanitarian aid.

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