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Give indigenous banks preferential treatment — Munatsi

ABC HOLDINGS chief executive officer Doug Munatsi says government should not force financial services institutions to “cede” ownership to native Zimbabweans but should offer preferential treatment to indigenous banks in its quest to economically empower locals.

Munatsi on Tuesday told businessdigest on the sidelines of a black empowerment conference that the state should not compel foreign-owned banks to cede controlling shareholding to blacks but grant them government business. His remarks come amid reports that the state had suspended the implementation of the controversial empowerment regulations.

He was attending the Capitalist Nigger empowerment conference, which was named after a controversial book authored by a US-based Nigerian scholar, Chika Onyeani.

The January 29 empowerment regulations force foreign-owned companies worth at least US$500 000 to surrender a 51% stake to black Zimbabweans.

Munatsi is a successful Zimbabwean banker behind BancABC, founded Heritage Investment Bank which later merged with First Merchant Bank during the last decade.

“I agree with what the governor (Gideon Gono) said that we cannot have policies that are going to be perceived as negative,” said Munatsi. “All these things are not positive for promoting a conducive investment environment. We have lost a lot in the last 10-15 years and we need foreign direct investment. As bankers, we don’t need empowerment because we have been empowered already. What we need is for government to empower local banks by giving them government business. Only indigenous banks should bid for government business.”

His remarks could resonate with CBZ Bank which analysts say managed to get a large quantum of total deposits owing to its preferential treatment from government. CBZ, according to its latest financial statements, now accounts for 33% market share of total deposits in the formal banking sector.

Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere who gazetted the regulations is on a collision course with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, with the premier describing the empowerment modus operandi as null and void.

The central bank chief also challenged the regulations in their current form saying they should be sector-by-sector-based rather than applying a “one-size-fits all approach”.

Seemingly referring to violence that characterised the land reform exercise which expropriated white commercial farms at the turn of the millennium, the ABC boss advised governments “not to repeat the mistakes that were made before”.

Meanwhile, Onyeani who was guest speaker at the conference criticised globalisation and also made a scathing attack at Chinese and Indian businesses operating in Africa saying they were negating the economic growth of host countries.

“We cannot continue to open our countries for other people to dump things on us,” he said. “I am very angry at African leaders because they have allowed the whites, yellows and browns to become African masters. The Chinese and Indians have become African masters but this time it is more dangerous. Our leaders are mortgaging the economic prospects of the next generation to the Chinese and Indians forcing our factories to close.”

Government is among other options considering mortgaging its platinum deposits to clear its ballooning external debt owed to multilateral lenders.

However, he said government should follow the Chinese and Indians by adopting what he termed the Spider Web Doctrine.

The doctrine, according to Onyeani, is “an economic model that recognises the selfishness within economic groups to prevent resources within their communities from escaping out of their control”.

 

Bernard Mpofu

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