Zimbabwe to tone down contentious investment law – Mugabe

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Thursday said he planned to tone down contentious “indigenisation” legislation which in its current form obliges foreign companies to hand over most of their shares to local investors.
“The relevant act will be amended to bring it into consonance with enunciated policy,” Mugabe said at the opening of parliament, without going into detail. In March, Zimbabwe threatened to close all companies that failed to comply with the legislation, passed in 2008.
But a few weeks later, Mugabe tried to reassure foreign investors, saying several sectors, notably banks, would be exempt from the most stringent stipulations of the law, which has been blamed for shutting off desperately needed foreign investment.
The government says the aim of the law is to empower the majority black population who were disadvantaged by colonial rule. Critics say it has benefitted Mugabe’s allies. In parliament on Thursday, Mugabe bemoaned a worsening economic crisis that has sparked a spate of nationwide protests in recent months.
The protests prompted the police to ban street protests in the capital. “Our economy faces a number of challenges which include subdued aggregate demand, liquidity constraints, high interest rates, subdued foreign direct investment and limited fiscal space.
“As a consequence, the economy registered a gradual decline with estimated growth for 2016 now projected at 1.2 percent,” he told lawmakers. Mugabe said among the bills to be debated during the upcoming parliamentary session was one to ease the registration of new investments and another to combat cybercrime.
Political activists have expressed fear the latter could be invoked against anti-government activists who have turned to social media to circumvent harsh security laws prohibiting gatherings without police authority.
Before setting out his legislative agenda Mugabe jokingly wondered aloud whether he had the “right speech,” a self-deprecating reference to an incident last year where the president read through an entire speech in parliament, not realising that he had given the same address a few weeks earlier. (AFP)