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Seeking to Lure Investors, Zimbabwe Prime Minister Tsvangirai Defends Empowerment Law

  • Benedict Nhlapho
  • Mark Nthambe
  • Gibbs Dube

Harare published regulations earlier this year forcing foreign-owned firms, including mines and banks, to transfer a 51 percent stake to black Zimbabweans, a move that divided the power-sharing government and spooked many investors.

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai pleaded with investors Thursday to consider Harare a safe investment destination.

Mr. Tsvangirai defended the controversial indigenization law, saying the policy to increase local black ownership of foreign firms would be implemented gradually and without forced sales.

Harare published regulations earlier this year forcing foreign-owned firms, including mines and banks, to transfer a 51 percent stake to black Zimbabweans, a move that divided the power-sharing government and spooked many investors.

"Remember, it's willing buyer, willing seller. There's no expropriation," Mr. Tsvangirai told a conference on Zimbabwe's political and economic prospects in Johannesburg.

In the more immediate future, companies would have to adopt much lower levels of black ownership while presenting a road map towards ultimate black Zimbabwean majority ownership, he said.

Correspondent Benedict Nhlapho reported that Tsvangirai assured investors that government is doing the best it can to create a conducive environment for investment.

In Harare meanwhile, Vice President John Nkomo complimented Mr Tsvangirai's statements saying the political and economic environment currently obtaining in the country was indicative that Zimbabwe had become a stable investment destination.

Correspondent Mark Peter Nthambe reported that Nkomo made these remarks while officially opening a two-day international tax conference in Harare.

Reacting to Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Vice President Nkomo’s calls, economic commentators said investors are still skeptical about Zimbabwe’s indigenization program.

Economist Eric Bloch told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that the country needs to respect bilateral investment protection agreements in order to attract foreign direct investment.

However, economic commentator Bekithemba Mhlanga differed with Bloch, saying despite foreign investors’ fears on the indigenization program, some firms traditionally linked to Zimbabwe may soon set up businesses in the country.

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