Foreign-owned banks face fresh threats


HARARE – Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere insists that foreign-owned banks will not be exempt from the controversial empowerment programme.

According to reports by state-owned broadcaster ZBC, Kasukuwere told a tobacco growers’ forum organised by Boka Auction Floors at Tsakare Primary School in Mt Darwin at the weekend, that banks will have to comply with the law and further castigated the institutions for not supporting resettled farmers.

Despite repeated warnings that indigenising the foreign-owned institutions could be disastrous to the sensitive financial sector, Kasukuwere remains adamant.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has said while the country’s empowerment policy stipulates that all foreign-owned firms should cede at least 51 percent to black Zimbabweans, a “one-size fits all approach” will not work in the indigenisation of banks.

There are four foreign-owned banks currently operating in the country namely Standard Chartered Bank, Barclays Bank, Standard Bank’s Stanbic, and MBCA — owned by South Africa’s Nedbank.

“While the banks should observe the laws of the country including the Indigenisation Act, the process… should, however, take cognisance of the sensitiveness around the operation of the banks to restore confidence, trust and stability in the sector,” the central bank said in its 2013 Monetary Policy Statement, adding that it was working together with the Indigenisation ministry “to ensure that compliance with appropriate laws is done in an orderly manner.”

But Kasukuwere — the man in charge of the indigenisation programme — has of late intensified pressure on foreign-owned banks to comply.

A few weeks back,  Kasukuwere said the institutions could leave the country if they were reluctant to give up the majority shareholding.

“Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and Stanbic Bank’s behaviours are appalling and if they want to pack and go they can do that because they are not of benefit to us,” Kasukuwere has been quoted as saying in the media.

“After mining, we will go to banks because how can we leave a situation whereby someone is sitting on over $3 billion and thecountry cannot fund agriculture?” he questioned.

“I cannot give the time period when we expect to complete the indigenisation process, but it is not Kasukuwere, it is the law.”

Meanwhile, the foreign-owned banks have submitted their indigenisation compliance plans to government. – Business Writer

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