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Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister Christopher Mushohwe has been left clutching onto a ministry devoid of the clout it used to command previously after government hived off most of its critical functions, plunging its future into serious doubt.

The ministry was rendered powerless late last year after its main function of indigenisation and economic empowerment was struck off its brief, leaving it with only the youth portfolio.

The indigenisation portfolio had enabled previous ministers to wade into the affairs of other line ministries, especially those under the economic cluster, as they sought to compel all foreign-owned companies to comply with the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act. This had often caused sparks to fly between successive indigenisation ministers and their colleagues in other line ministries who felt undermined by the intrusive nature of such an arrangement.

A case in point was the tug of war that ensued between Tendai Biti, the former finance minister, and Saviour Kasukuwere, who was the indigenisation minister between 2009 and 2013.

Biti and former central bank governor Gideon Gono fought relentless battles with Kasukuwere who wanted foreign-owned banks to give up controlling stakes to black Zimbabweans against their aice.

Indications are, however, that the ministry could be disbanded through another shake-up of President Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet to give line ministries the autonomy to spearhead their own indigenisation programmes.

Due to his closeness to President Mugabe, Mushohwe is unlikely to be made redundant though.

He is seen being reassigned to another ministry and, should that happen, what that would mean is that President Mugabe would be forced to drop one of the current serving ministers in order to create space for Mushohwe.

Alternatively, the ZANU-PF leader would be forced to create another ministry to accommodate the former Governor for Manicaland province.

Recently, government announced that line ministries would now be responsible for enforcing compliance with the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act as well as approving indigenisation schemes involving companies within their range.

Presenting the 2015 annual budget last year, Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, hinted that the 51-49 percent share ownership configuration would continue but under the administration of line ministries.

Parliament has since effected the amendment.

Prior to that, the indigenisation ministry had the singular mandate to enforce compliance with the law.

In the context of the new arrangement, the Indigenisation Ministry could be disbanded altogether given that much of what Mushohwe’s ministry has been doing will now be handled by other ministries.

This also comes as pressure is mounting on government to repel the Act, which is considered a hindrance to investment.

Retiring the ministry would be a welcome cost-cutting move as the current Cabinet is too big for the size of Zimbabwe’s economy.

The savings may not be much though as staff members could be reassigned to other ministries and government departments while the youth portfolio could be moved to the Ministry of Sport, Art and Culture.

Mushohwe this week said he would be able to respond to enquiries once he has familiarised himself with issues at the ministry.

He said: “As you know, I am new at the ministry and I am still to be briefed about a lot of things. I will be able to give an official comment about that but you know only the President has the prerogative of setting up ministries.”

There have been calls for the disbandment of Josiah Hungwe’s Psychomotor Ministry as well in the face of a comprehensive curriculum review process under the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

Analysts argue that President Mugabe’s Cabinet needs to be trimmed to lessen the burden on the taxpayer.

Government is currently bankrupt owing to a tight liquidity situation affecting the country.

The cash squeeze has led analysts to suggest a fresh look at the Indigenisation Act to make it friendly to foreign direct investment.

Zimbabwe’s indigenisation policy has been widely criticised as among the major deterrents to foreign capital.

MDC Renewal Team secretary-general, Tendai Biti, said the whole Indigenisation Act must be repelled, adding that policy adjustments alone would not be enough.

“Government must repel the Indigenisation Act in its totality if we must reconstruct ourselves from this crisis,” he said.

But political analyst, Rashweat Mukundu, is of a different view.

Mukundu postulates that the law must not be repelled but used to spearhead development.

“There is need for government to consider this issue less politically to enhance more economic growth, focusing on promoting partnerships instead of collapsing companies. The law would be necessary to protect the economic interests of vulnerable groups, especially in the extractive industry,” he said.


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Source : Financial Gazette