INDIGENISATION minister Patrick Zhuwao’s wings were clipped after President Robert Mugabe read him the riot act to him over his damaging interpretation of the contentious indigenisation act at a cabinet meeting on April 12, it has emerged.
Mugabe made the move after Zhuwao — his nephew — and Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa had clashed over the indigenisation of banks following a series of previous dogfights. Chinamasa had issued a statement to the effect that banks had complied with the indigenisation requirements while Zhuwao insisted they were still to comply.
According to senior ministers, Chinamasa laid a trap for Zhuwao by going to cabinet to insist that financial institutions had complied with the Indigenisation Act after holding private meetings with Mugabe unbeknownst to Zhuwao.
In the cabinet meeting, ministers said, Zhuwao took a hardline stance, but found that Mugabe was not with him, leaving him vulnerable to attacks by his cabinet colleagues led by Chinamasa. Ministers said Zhuwao’s situation was made worse by the fact that Mugabe had already decided his nephew should be reined in.
Following the cabinet rebuttal, Zhuwao was last week forced to eat humble pie and admit he had misinterpreted the policy and the law despite his public huffing and puffing over the empowerment issue.
His humiliating admission came after Mugabe had issued a statement following the cabinet meeting, saying “conflicting positions in the interpretation of the indigenisation and economic empowerment policy … has caused confusion among Zimbabweans, the business community, current and potential investors thereby undermining market confidence”.
In March, Zhuwao threatened to shutdown foreign companies with effect from April 1 should they fail to comply with the indigenisation requirements. His hardline stance, however, came under attack from other ministers who accused him of sabotaging investment and the economy.
“Zhuwao was attacked by several ministers in that cabinet meeting. However, there were some G40 (Generation 40) ministers who tried to defend him, but the President was adamant that he must stop his destructive methods,” said one minister.
Mugabe’s statement also came at a time First Lady Grace Mugabe had reportedly earlier warned Zhuwao over his controversial pronouncements and actions on indigenisation policy.
According to sources in the Zanu PF, Grace who is backing G40 faction, warned Zhuwao twice just before the Chiweshe rally in February to be careful on his statements on indigenisation as this would put the faction in bad light.
“The First Lady was not happy with Zhuwao’s stance on indigenisation and his ultimatums to foreign companies. It was just not strategic. Zhuwao was being childishly radical; she did not want his antics to be associated with G40 members,” said a senior Zanu PF official. “She wanted him to tone down as she believed his stance was destructive strategy for both the country, Zanu PF and her faction.”
Asked to comment this week on his fallout with Mugabe and his wife, Zhuwao said he did not want to discuss anything on the indigenisation policy.
“Haa no, no, no! The President has clarified the issue, so it’s not a matter I will have a conversation around anymore.”