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Zimbabwe May Amend Indigenization Law

FILE - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses his staff during a surprise birthday celebration event at State House in Harare, Feb. 22, 2016. Mugabe said Wednesday the country needs to rethink its indigenization policy.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe says the country needs to rethink its indigenization policy. His comment comes less than two weeks after the March 31 deadline for foreign companies to transfer majority shares to black Zimbabweans.

President Robert Mugabe said in a statement Tuesday that the indigenization policy is creating “confusion” and discouraging foreign investment.

The law was passed in 2008, and Mugabe says parts of it may now need to be amended.

But Harare-based independent economist John Robertson says the damage has been done. He says investors are not confused.

“They know that the policies are very, very hostile to their investment plans. So… no confusion," he said. "The confusion is that the government believes that they can legalize the theft of other people’s shares or other people’s property. The only way they can clarify the problem is to repeal the legislation that is hostile to investors.”

Mugabe said Tuesday the law will not be repealed outright.

The president says indigenization is meant to correct colonial imbalances which marginalized black Zimbabweans.

But analysts say that policy and others have sunk Zimbabwe’s economy to unprecedented lows. Unemployment is above 80 percent, and the government relies on foreign aid to fund social sectors like education and health.

Mugabe blamed the current confusion on conflicting public statements by his government ministers.

The Indigenization Minister Patrick Zhuwawo said earlier this year that foreign companies would have their licenses revoked if they did not submit plans for how they would comply with the law by March 31.

The finance minister disagreed publicly and said he was happy with what had already been done.

The indigenization minister told VOA his declaration stands.

“Unfortunately, I do not have an update for you — my team are still working on the application — except to say that they received about 649 applications for compliance. So that is a lot of work,” he said.

Earlier this year, Zimbabwe nationalized all diamond mining. Nine foreign companies are currently fighting that move in court.