INDIGENISATION minister Francis Nhema yesterday said he was not aware of a blitz against foreign-owned Bulawayo companies operating in sectors reserved for locals.
This followed reports that the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (Nieeb) had shut down one of the city’s popular food outlets Golden Grill for non-compliance.
Nieeb officials told State media companies had been given a seven-day notice to comply with the directive to comply with the controversial indigenisaton laws.
“I can’t comment on that (Golden Grill closure) because I don’t know anything about it,” Nhema said when contacted for comment by Southern Eye. “What you need to do is to get from them what it is they were asked to comply with or what the seven days is for,” he said.
However, the directive angered the Bulawayo business community and labour unions who described it as sabotage for a city already reeling under mass company closures.
Association for Business in Zimbabwe chief executive officer Lucky Mlilo said Bulawayo had already recorded too many company closures and Nieeb’s actions were unfortunate.
“If that is the case, it is actually unfortunate because the move affects families,” he said.
“The best way is for people to sit down and talk, not to close companies. Here we are not looking only at the owners, but employees as well.
“Closing companies is not the best option. They could have enforced other options rather than to close and this will contribute to unemployment.”
Affirmative Action Group Matabeleland Chapter president Roy Sibanda said shutting down companies was retrogressive.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union secretary-general Japhet Moyo said the move will send a bad signal to potential investors.
“The problem we have is the inconsistences we have received from the government,” he said.
“When the indigenisation law is interpreted, we get different signals from the government. So which one is which then?
“We are very worried about that because our membership is declining. Workers are losing jobs.
“Whatever they have done to those companies will send a wrong signal to other countries and no one will come because there is no clarity on the indigenisation policy.”
Under the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, foreigners are not allowed to invest in reserved sectors such as grain milling, barber shops, tobacco processing, bakeries, local transportation and fast-food outlets, among others.
President Robert Mugabe last month said the government would be flexible in the implementation of the indigenisation law.