BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
THE Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) has urged listed firms to hold their annual general meetings (AGMs) online to prevent the spread of coronavirus that is wreaking havoc on economies across the world.
Zimbabwe has been on lockdown since March 30 to control the spread of the virus that has infected millions across the globe.
Some of the conditions for the lockdown include strict regulations on social distancing and a ban on large gatherings.
The country is on level two of the lockdown regulations where big businesses are allowed to operate under strict conditions.
A number of companies listed on the ZSE are expected to hold their AGMs soon and the bourse said some firms had indicated that they were facing challenges convening the meetings because of Covid-19.
“The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange Limited has received various representations from the market concerning the challenges of convening annual general meetings and extraordinary general meetings in the current environment,” said ZSE chief executive Justin Bgoni.
“As such, the ZSE encourages issuers to convene virtual or electronic meetings in line with section 170 (10) of the Companies and Other Business Entities Act, Chapter 24:31.
“This, however, does not prohibit issuers from convening physical meetings where appropriate.
“In the event that an issuer chooses to hold a physical meeting, the issuer should follow public health guidelines as stipulated by the government of Zimbabwe.”
Bgoni said where the issuer chose to convene a virtual or electronic meeting, the virtual or electronic platform should allow for the identification and participation of the shareholders or their proxies, attendance register as well as allow shareholders or their proxies to cast their votes electronically.
“The system/application must be auditable in every respect should any dispute arise,” Bgoni said.
“The system/application must be secure and encrypted to mitigate the risk of hacking.
“Where an issuer chooses to convene a physical meeting, the issuer must follow public health guidelines as stipulated by the government of Zimbabwe, which include: ensuring that not more than 50 individuals at a time are gathered for that purpose.”
He said if a physical meeting was to be held, there must be compliance with social and physical distancing rules, wearing of masks, and availability of alcohol-based sanitisers for all attendees.
“Temperature checks must be done at points of entry,” Bgoni added.
“(There must be) collection of individual information of attendees to assist in contact tracing in the event of infections.
“We encourage everyone to take the necessary precautionary measures and be vigilant during this trying time.”
Online business meetings have become popular since the outbreak of Covid-19 as more businesses are working remotely to avoid physical contact.
Meetings are being held on platforms such as Hangouts Meet by Google, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Cisco Webex and Zoom.
Jacob Mutisi, the chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology Division, described hosting meetings online as a step in the right direction, saying companies must utilise the platforms even post Covid-19.
“Yes, let’s have AGMs on video, that is the right direction for online meetings,” Mutisi said.
“The future of meetings will on be online just like what we are experiencing at the moment, and what this means is there is no privacy on what you do.”
Economist John Robertson described Zoom as an answer for virtual meetings.
“I have been on Zoom and it works well,” Robertson said. “It is a good answer in these circumstances.”