The law and the numbers

3 03 2014

“Chinamasa’s Job on the Line” blared the title page of the Financial Gazette, the weekly financial newspaper, on sale yesterday. Now the newspaper billboards in this country are as about as misleading as anywhere but the FinGaz or Pink Paper (the cover is printed on pink newsprint) is a little less sensationalistic than the rest of the competition and it does like to take itself a bit more seriously. So I bought a copy at the traffic lights (I made sure other vehicles could get past) and well, I needed some paper to start the braai (barbeque).

Patrick Chinamasa is the current Minister of Finance who has the unenviable job of finding enough money to keep the government running when it is obviously broke. Apparently President Mugabe had told him if he wasn’t up to the job he’d find someone else to do it.

Chinamasa’s background is not in finance. I’m not sure what history is but he certainly had an easier run in his former portfolio as the Justice Minister. Mind you, it’s easy to run a ministry like that when you control the police so you effectively ARE the law. Paradoxically the previous finance Minister was Tendai Biti who actually is a lawyer and did a good job with extremely limited resources.

The FinGaz also notes that Chinamasa came back empty-handed from a recent world tour to source finance for the beleaguered government. No real surprise this as apparently potential investors are concerned about the 51% law which requires all Zimbabwe companies to have a majority indigenous shareholder. Despite being born here I am not indigenous – all locally born blacks are considered indigenous as is anyone born after independence in 1980. Well, Comrade Chinamasa likely has an insurmountable problem ahead of him. The laws of economics (which is just a branch of mathematics) are inviolate unlike his previous ministry where the law was wide open to manipulation and interpretation. And even our good friends the Chinese don’t want to help out.

The census

27 08 2012

It has been 10 years since the last¬† national census. They are still using teachers on holiday to get the statistics. The form they use has changed though. For the last census it was small and green, this year it is large and red. Like the last census I was impressed by the attitude of the official. He was on my doorstep yesterday morning at 7 a.m – no mean feat considering I live 5 km out of town and he would have had to walk the last 1.5 km from the tar road. He was also prepared for my response to “What ethnic group are you?”.

“African – I was born here, in Harare”.

“But where were your parents from?”

“The UK”.

“So you are European”.

This is actually more of an issue than most people might think. Despite having a Zimbabwean passport I am not considered “indigenous” the definition of which is (or was the last time I heard): anyone born in Zimbabwe after independence in April 1980 OR anyone born in the country before that date who by nature of their race was discriminated against. Yes, Rhodesia as Zimbabwe was then had racially biased laws. We thought that had all finished 32 years ago. Now not being indigenous has a number of disadvantages not least of which is the Indigenization Act under which those non-indigenous persons must cede at least 51% of their company’s shares to indigenous share holders within a year. The first time this was tabled limits were set on the value of companies so that those worth less than $50,000 were exempt. Now the limit for most companies has been set at $1. There are a few exceptions; arts companies have a lower limit of $500,000. Art is not a great way to make a living these days and I cannot think of any that have assets worth that amount. I can only assume that arts companies are not desirable!¬† Quite what this will do to foreign investment is not clear though it cannot be very attractive.

It is also not clear what will happen to the information gleaned from the census exercise and how much of the statistics will filter back to the general public. I can think that more than a few people will be interested to see how many Chinese are estimated to be in the country. I have heard a figure of about 30,000 which would make them the second biggest population group. I assume that they will not be classified indigenous!