Zimbabwean Indigenization Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has turned his sights on banks aiming to extract a 51 percent controlling stake from foreign-owned institutions in the name of the economic empowerment of Zimbabwean blacks.
Bankers express concern about Kasukuwere’s current moves, though most do not expect him to attempt to nationalize their institutions. However, it is unclear how Kasukuwere or the government intend to pay for such stakes when they are transferred.
Kasukuwere’s demand for a controlling stake in foreign financial institutions could spark opposition by Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, who has already rebuked him for demanding banks hand over majority stakes.
Neither Kasukuwere nor Gono could be reached immediately for comment.
Kasukuwere has accused Standard Chartered and Barclays of resisting indigenization.
Political commentator Livingstone Dzikira said foreign-owned banks should put some equity stake in black hands - but not 51 percent as Kasukuwere demands.
Economist Eric Bloch said he believes most banks will not comply with the indigenization law. "They are not prepared to meet the minister's demands and if he does not compromise then they will just shut down," Bloch said.
Economic commentator Masimba Kuchera said Kasukuwere is targeting foreign-owned banks as a means to bolster the anti-sanctions agenda of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, many of whose top officials are under Western restrictions.