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‘Share scheme, a vote-buying gimmick’


But the populist community ownership trusts could plunge the country, still smarting from a decade-long economic decline, into deeper crisis as it will scare away foreign investors.


The party has started dishing out shares in the hope of recapturing its disillusioned supporters as well as grabbing swing voters who are not solidly committed to any particular party ahead of the elections.


President Robert Mugabe has demanded polls next year while his main rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai insists on a level electoral playing field first.


A fortnight ago, Mugabe officially launched the Chegutu-Mhondoro-Ngezi-Zvimba Community Share Ownership Trust, which he said was designed to economically empower indigenous people.


But his critics dismissed it as a “vote-catching strategy,” similar to the ruinous land grab policy.


Mining giant Zimplats gave 10% shareholding to the local community as part of the scheme.


It will also surrender US$10 million to the local community to be disbursed over a three-year period.


Under Zimbabwe’s contested empowerment laws, foreign firms must cede at least 51% of their shareholding to locals.


The architect of the schemes, Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Saviour Kasukuwere said the schemes were critical towards achieving broad-based empowerment after the “successful” conclusion of the land reform programme.



MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora dismissed the empowerment programme saying it smacks of Zanu PF clientelism, cronyism, corruption and political paternalism.


Since 2000, Zanu PF has dished out vast tracts of productive farmland grabbed from commercial farmers to party loyalists.


In recent years, Mugabe has drawn most of his votes from the farming communities, who are ordered to vote for Zanu PF or risk losing the allocated land.


“The political polarisation is such that only those in privileged positions and those who supported Zanu PF will benefit from this so-called empowerment,” said University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer John Makumbe.


“It ceased to be a government programme because the MDC-T has washed its hands.”


In the past, thousands of Mugabe’s supporters have been favoured with jobs, properties and other privileges at a great cost to the economy.


Judging from the land invasions, analysts said the “clientelism” strategy could shake Tsvangirai’s support base if all the community share beneficiaries were to vote for Mugabe.


In previous polls, Zanu PF dished out farming implements and food in exchange for votes. It has also used political violence with limited success.


But Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe chairman Jonah Gokova said just like the land reform; the empowerment programme will only benefit Mugabe’s cronies.


“During the land invasions, Mugabe said he was empowering the poor but they voted against him in the 2008 elections,” Gokova said.


“People are not fools. They know it’s a vote-buying gimmick.”


Economic analyst Daniel Ndlela described the policy as noble but feared that it will be abused.


He said similar policies were pursued to empower disadvantaged Aborigines in Australia and American-Indians in America.


“As a policy, you cannot run away from it but it has to be transparent and non-political,” Ndlela said.


“These are the conditions for sustainability.”


Ndlela expressed concern that the policy was heavily politicised and forced companies, some of which were not making any profits, to contribute.


“Will they not forget it soon after elections?” he asked. “It should go beyond political rhetoric.”


Makumbe said Zanu PF officials had already positioned themselves to grab shares in foreign-owned firms like they did with farms, which are now derelict.



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