15 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Fawcett Gets Ultimatum

One of the country's leading security firms, Fawcett Security (Pvt) Limited, risks having its operations suspended over the company's failure to submit an acceptable indigenisation compliance plan, the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board has said.

NIEEB general manager (compliance) Mr Zweli Lunga said in an interview yesterday that they had since communicated with Fawcett's licensing authorities -- the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Zimbabwe Republic Police - advising them to withhold their licence until the company complies with requirements of the indigenisation law.

Mr Lunga said NIEEB was in the process of drafting a letter to Fawcett giving the company a seven-day ultimatum.

Fawcett managing director Mr Andrew Laing said the issue was a shareholder rather than management issue, but said the shareholders were working on finalising the indigenisation compliance plan.

NIEEB is planning to advise all licensing authorities to compel all foreign-owned companies operating in Zimbabwe to comply with the law before their licences can be renewed.

Plans are in the pipeline to amend the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act to include harsher penalties and automatic suspension of licences for non-compliant companies.

NIEEB was set up by an Act of Parliament to administer Government's indigenisation policy requirements for foreign-owned companies operating in Zimbabwe to sell a minimum of 51 percent shareholding to indigenous black Zimbabweans.

"Fawcett Security has defied the law and is non-compliant (with indigenisation law). We wrote a number of letters asking them to comply.

"The Indigenisation Act allows us to approach licensing authorities to withhold licences pending compliance," said Mr Lunga.

Apart from the indigenisation and economic empowerment requirement for foreign owned companies, Mr Lunga said Fawcett should indigenise its shareholding considering the fact that it is the single biggest private firearms holder in the country.

He added that the fact that Fawcett shareholders were based in a foreign country (South Africa) made the need to indigenise its shareholding even more urgent.

"We are doing a communication to Fawcett to say 'you have seven days to comply (with the indigenisation law) and after this will proceed to suspend your operations," said Mr Lunga.

Mr Laing said Fawcett's shareholders were racing against time to beat the May 2013 compliance deadline following their communication with the Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment.

"The shareholders were contacted by the Minister (Saviour Kasukuwere) on two separate occasions and they also wrote to him on at least two occasions.

"What I know is that the shareholders are actively working on formalising details of the plan to be submitted to the minister prior to the due date, which I think falls in May this year with a view to be fully compliant," Mr Laing said.

Mr Lunga said the private security firm continues to drag its feet regarding the need to comply with indigenisation requirements despite other bigger foreign-owned institutions taken immediate measures to localise their shareholding.

To date, some of the notable big foreign-owned companies that have submitted approved indigenisation plans include Zimplats, Mimosa, Unki, Old Mutual Zimbabwe, PPC, BAT Zimbabwe, Meikles, Blanket Mine to name just a few.

To ensure broad-based empowerment the companies agreed to set up community and employee share ownership schemes.To that end, the firms have entered into agreement with Government for the transfer of controlling shareholders either to indigenous investors or State approved agencies such as NIEEB.

Government is rolling out the indigenisation programme as part of a process to bring previously marginalised locals into the mainstream by controlling the means of production.

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