Black empowerment law delayed in Zimbabwe

Published April 14, 2010

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe's mostly white-owned business won't immediately have to comply with a law that requires them to hand over 51 percent control to blacks, a minister said Wednesday.

Saviour Kasukuwere, the militant black empowerment minister from President Robert Mugabe's party, said implementation of the law on businesses will be delayed for more discussions.

The first deadline for companies to submit handover proposals was set for Thursday.

But Kasukwere told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that the law has been delayed for discussions with business leaders.

"They are consultations which must be made with various sectors and this is why the act has been set aside," Kasukuwere said.

Officials said the law will be implemented.

Rugare Gumbo, a spokesman for Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, said the law was being rescheduled to win more widespread support.

"We support empowerment but accept adjustments have to be made," he said.

The law was passed in 2008, when parliament was still dominated by Mugabe's lawmakers. It aimed to benefit "indigenous" Zimbabweans — defined as those who suffered under colonial-era racial discrimination and their children born after independence in 1980, effectively excluding the nation's 20,000 whites.

The announcement late February that the law, dormant for nearly two years, was being enforced shocked the business community a decade after Mugabe ordered the often violent seizures of thousands white-owned commercial farms, disrupting the agriculture-based economy in the former regional breadbasket.

The law came into force on March 1, giving businesses, including subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies and international banks, 45 days to comply by submitting their quotas.

Opposition lawmakers argued the law would scare investors and hurt the ailing economy.

Written by CHENGETAI ZVAUYA, Associated Press Writer

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