ZIMBABWEANS should demand shareholding in all Chinese firms as part of the country's empowerment law which stipulates that all foreign-owned companies should cede 51 percent of their stakes to locals, the Zimbabwe Economic and Empowerment Council (ZEEC) has said.
ZEEC president, Temba Mliswa, says it is within their right for Zimbabweans to demand shareholding in Chinese firms domiciled locally, adding it was high time tobacco farmers muscle into Chinese companies they were dealing with locally in addition to benefitting from companies from elsewhere such as British American Tobacco (BAT) Zimbabwe.
"Our people must also have shares from the Chinese firms whom they are dealing with. Farmers must also have shares in these companies because that is where money is.
"War veterans must also get shares. There is also the issue of BAT," said Mliswa at ZEEC's provincial conference in Chinhoyi at the weekend.
His remarks come at a time when some Chinese companies have approa-ched government to be exempted from the country's Indigenisation and Empowerment Act.
The Deputy Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Empowerment Tongai Matutu revealed recently that Chinese firm, Sinosteel Corporation, which is the majority shareholder in Zimasco, had asked for exemption from the quota law.
"The management of Zimasco has been arguing that since they are Chinese, they have been actually friends of Zimbabwe and therefore they should be exempted.
"They have also argued that they have got a five-year development plan, which they believe should not be disturbed by bringing on a new investor," said Matutu.
Mliswa's call is at variance with the thinking in ZANU-PF towards Chinese companies.
Despite adopting the empowerment theme as its campaign strategy that has seen it pressurising foreign-owned companies to cede their majority shareholding to locals, ZANU-PF has been lenient when dealing with companies from China.
ZANU-PF considers China as an all-weather friend.