Zimbabwean Indigenization Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said Tuesday it is ‘regrettable” that his economic empowerment program has been seized upon by some political parties as an election issue, responding to criticism of the program by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai saying it is a ZANU-PF scheme that is driving investors away.
Addressing reporters in Harare on Tuesday, Kasukuwere accused un-named political parties of politicizing the indigenization process ahead of expected 2012 elections.
Mr. Tsvangirai has lately come out more strongly in opposition to the indigenization drive, declaring at a rally Sunday in Marondera, capital of Mashonaland East province, that his Movement for Democratic Change formation "totally opposes" the initiative.
Kasukuwere, of the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe, expressed surprise at Mr. Tsvangirai's statements, saying the prime minister endorsed indigenization in Cabinet deliberations. He suggested that Mr. Tsvangirai was in an electoral campaign mode when he made the comments in Marondera on the weekend.
Nonetheless, Kasukuwere acknowledged Mr. Tsvangirai's seniority and said he saw no reason not to attend an inter-ministerial meeting called by Mr. Tsvangirai later this month to examine the potential impact of indigenization on the economy.
Elsewhere, Kasukuwere encouraged unnamed banks that he said have not complied with economic empowerment regulations to make sure they obeyed the law. He warned that failure to do so would result in heavy penalties.
He said the government is also targeting certain banks because they are not making enough loans to farmers, which he said is hurting agricultural production.
Some banks have argued that the 99-year leases granted by the government to farmers under the land reform program do not provide sufficient loan collateral.
Political analyst Walter Nsununguli Mbongolwane told reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga that Prime Minister Tsvangirai should have anticipated that ZANU-PF would manipulate the indigenization program from which ordinary zimbabweans are unlikely to benefit.