New Zimbabwe (London)

Zimbabwe: Govt Backtracks On Foreign Shop-Owners

FOREIGN shop-owners, mainly Chinese and Nigerian nationals, say the government has reversed an ultimatum for them to close their businesses by January 1.

The owners of mainly small businesses selling cheap consumer goods said Monday they were informed of a weekend statement by empowerment minister Francis Nhema that they have been allowed to continue trading.

Under Zimbabwe's "indigenisation" laws passed in 2007, certain sectors such as retail trade, farming and hair salons are reserved solely for black Zimbabweans.

Poor townships and city flea markets have in recent years been inundated by shops run by foreigners who had come under fire for taking those opportunities from local blacks.

In a statement in the state media Nhema commended the foreigners for playing a "very important role" in providing services to impoverished Zimbabweans.

"What we are saying is: new licensing in reserved sectors, from January, will be skewed in favour of indigenous people," said the minister.

"Those foreigners operating in the reserved sectors of our economy should continue. One needs to understand that they have played a very important role in terms of providing services to our people during their time of need.

"We encourage those already in the industry to welcome new players and assist them wherever possible; working with them in the spirit of fair competition, which can only make Zimbabwe a great nation."

Nhema said the government would not tolerate any irregular takeover of foreign-owned businesses in the country.

"We are a business community, which should follow proper business procedures and maintain sanity in our country," he said.

"All business takeovers should be done and finalised through the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board. It is important for Zimbabweans to understand that economic empowerment relates to the creation of wealth by locals as well as employment.

"As government, we have emphasised broad-based economic empowerment, giving access and opportunity to those who were looked at marginally in the economics of the past."

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