After cooperating last week to pass legislation to amend the constitution, Zimbabwe's ruling party and opposition squared off again Wednesday over proposed legislation to oblige foreign-owned corporations to cede a 51% interest to the government in the name of "indigenization," or black economic empowerment.
Parliamentarians of the ruling ZANU-PF party used their overwhelming majority in the parliament to ram through the legislation. Lawmakers of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change walked out of parliament in protest as the bill was passed.
Empowerment Minister Paul Mangwana said the bill was even more revolutionary than the controversial land reform program which the Harare government launched in 2000 and which many economists blame for the collapse of the economy since then. He said passing the bill was a sure way to "dismantle the structure of colonialism."
Opposition lawmakers opposed the bill, saying it is intended to enrich a few powerful individuals in the ruling party and burnish ZANU-PF's populist credentials ahead of the local, general and presidential elections tentatively called for March 2008.
Chief Whip Innocent Gonese of the MDC faction of Morgan Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the bill is counterproductive.
ZANU-PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo told VOA that the bill will help to empower Zimbabwe's indigenous blacks, rejecting charges it is a political gimmick.