HARARE – Damaging discord has once again emerged in President Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet, with two ministers Patrick Chinamasa and Patrick Zhuwao reading from entirely different scripts on the country’s contentious indigenisation framework.
So wide has the gulf between the two bigwigs become that Chinamasa, who is the minister of Finance, apparently walked out of a meeting which he was having with Zhuwao, the minister of Indigenisation, on Thursday — as they brawled over planned amendments to laws that force foreign-owned firms to surrender 51 percent of their shares to locals.
Chinamasa later released a statement outlining “revisions” to the contentious laws, a move that was well-received by the business community.
But before the ink had dried on the Finance minister’s pronouncements, Zhuwao also released his own statement slating the Treasury boss’s policy announcements.
Departing from the government’s radical posturing and fiery laws rhetoric of the past few years, the pragmatic Chinamasa said “a non-indigenous business may hold the majority shareholding of a business for a period ranging up to five years, except for the energy sector which can go up to 20 years”.
“Existing foreign companies may continue to operate in all sectors of the economy but shall be required to pay an indigenisation compliance levy as a trade off for non-compliance,” Chinamasa said.
But Zhuwao would have none of it, shredding Chinamasa’s proposals to pieces and describing the Finance minister’s policy pronouncements at a time that Mugabe was away on holiday as “treacherous”.
Speaking at an unusual and hastily-convened press conference on Christmas Day, Zhuwao said it was unheard of for a minister to contradict Mugabe.
“The president has pronounced himself on that and the timing was wrong because it was timed specifically when the president was out of the country, when the president had gone on leave and that to me appeared highly treacherous because we are all supposed to follow the lead of the head of State.
“He is the one who has the mandate and for me to then issue statements around policy issues without having cleared them with the president really does not make sense and on top of which we need to go through the necessary consultations to be able to talk to each other,” he said ominously.
Earlier, the two ministers had failed to address a joint press conference because of their differences.
Dismissing Chinamasa’s policy climb-down which could open up the country to much-needed foreign direct investment, Zhuwao said the government would not back down on its contentious policies — that are blamed by many for scaring away investors.