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Zimbabwe Parliament Takes Up Black "Empowerment" Legislation

The Zimbabwean government introduced in parliament Thursday a bil for what it calls indigenization and economic empowerment that it says will give the black majority a stake in all companies – a move critics say will further hammer the economy.

Indigenization and Empowerment Minister Paul Mangwana told parliament that the bill would create an "enabling environment" leading to an increased role for indigenous - black - Zimbabweans in the economic life of the country.

The legislation went to parliament's legal committee soon after being tabled, and the assembly adjourned to September 4 when the bill is expected to be debated.

The bill would require at least 51% of any public or privately held company to be owned by indigenous – that is, black – Zimbabweans. It says all new investments or combinations of firms must maintain the indigenous majority stake.

The bill defines "indigenous Zimbabwean" as anyone disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on race grounds before independence in 1980.

Firms that stand to be affected and are quoted on both the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange include NMB Holdings, Hwange Colliery Company, Meikles Africa Limited and BICC CAFCA, a maker of power transmission gear.

VOA could not reach Minister Mangwana for comment. But ZANU-PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the bill will empower Zimbabweans by funding their acquisition of shares.

But Secretary General Tendai Biti of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change faction led by MDC founder Morgan Tsvangirai said the bill merely widens the ruling ZANU-PF party's avenues for patronage and rent-seeking by top officials.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...