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'You Can't Lecture Mugabe on the Economy, He Holds a Degree in Economics'

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe

President Robert Mugabe holds an economics degree from London and no one can lecture him on how to run Zimbabwe’s economy, a government minister has said.

Indigenization Minister Patrick Zhuwao made the incongruous claim Friday even as the country continues to degenerate into economic chaos characterized by high unemployment and widespread company closures.

“My boss has a Master’s degree in economics from the London School of Economics," Zhuwao, also Mr. Mugabe's nephew, told an indigenization conference in Harare. "So, don’t think you can lecture us about economics, we understand it,"

Indigenization regulations crafted at the height of economic decline that precipitated the demise of the Zimbabwean dollar in 2008, mandates all foreign-owned companies to cede a 50 percent stake to black locals.

Zhuwao took aim at government officials who “promise white people after drinking their wine at western embassies” that the empowerment guidelines will be relaxed or rolled back.

He said a radical push was needed to set Zimbabwe on a full-scale black empowerment path.

But economist Prosper Chitambara said while empowerment was vital, a cautious approach was needed to ensure stability and a business-friendly environment.

Chitambara also laughed off Zhuwao’s “you can’t lecture Mugabe on the economy remarks.”

“Possessing a degree in economics does not mean you have monopoly over economic knowledge,” Chitambara told VOA Studio 7.

“Once you attain these qualifications, one thing I have noticed is that you become more humble because as you attain higher qualifications, the degree of peer review is very, very high and thorough. It tends to humble you.”

Minister Zhuwao warned critics of indigenization and vowed to press ahead with an empowerment levy on companies that he likened to the tobacco and Aids levies.

“When I talked about the levy I was very clear. Just to let you know, we have a vibrant tobacco sector because we instituted a tobacco levy,” Zhuwao told delegates.

Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko and Local Government Minister Savior Kasukuwere also addressed the conference, saying black people deserved a bigger stake in their economy.

Mr. Mugabe's government stands accused of running down Zimbabwe’s once-vibrant economy with detrimental policies that have over the years either driven out investors or alienated potential ones.