EX-GWANDA Mayor and businessman Lionel De Necker has accused the State of racial bias in its application of the indigenisation law, after officials targeted him.
De Necker said enforcement authorities visited his business premises last week and informed him that he was breaking the law which says foreign investors cannot own more than 49% shares in certain sectors.
De Necker, who runs a retail dealer in the Matabeleland South town of Gwanda, said his feeling was that he was being targeted because of his mixed race parentage.
“I was born at Manama Hospital in the heart of Gwanda. I am as Zimbabwean as they come by birth and not by registration.
“I have served as mayor of Gwanda town a post I would not have held if I was not Zimbabwean as implied by the indigenisation authority,” De Necker told SW Radio Africa yesterday.
The ex-mayor said the new Constitution endorses his claim to being Zimbabwean, and he would have been able to prove it had he been given the chance to do so.
“The notice I received from NIEEB (the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board) indicated clearly that they had decided my status just on the basis that my name sounds foreign. This has made me feel that I am being targeted because I am of a particular race,” De Necker added.
Critics of Zimbabwe’s controversial indigenisation policies maintain that the government is using the regulations to target white-owned enterprises, even if those owners are Zimbabwean nationals.
Last month thriving Bulawayo-based food outlet, the Golden Grill, was forced to shut shop after its owner Paul Evans was served with a non-compliance order.
However Evans, who is also of mixed race, argued that he is an indigenous Zimbabwean and should not be subjected to the same requirements as foreigners.
De Necker said many Zimbabweans support indigenisation, but the government needs to address the racial connotations in the implementation of the policy.
“Many people do not understand the feeling of trepidation and uncertainty associated with waking up one day and finding that you have been stripped of your country and possessions on the say-so of some official. Right now I am worried about my family and for every person of my racial background who may be contributing immensely to the economy, but faces an uncertain future under the current policy. I can imagine that most of them will be holding back on their business activities because they do not know what tomorrow holds for them and their businesses,” he said.
“The government needs to think seriously about this policy to ensure that it is applied fairly, consistently so that every investor who wants to come into the country knows what they are getting themselves into.
“This law is also silent on how the indigenous people ‘acquire’ the 51% in foreign-owned firms, or what happens to the investor’s initial capital.
“This deters investment. There is nothing to persuade potential foreign investors that the country is a safe destination when the government harasses its own citizens just because of their race,” De Necker added.
– SW Radio Africa