Zimbabwean authorities say they have given foreign shop-owners, mostly Chinese and Nigerian nationals, an ultimatum to shut down their businesses by 1 January 2014, hand them over to Zimbabweans or face arrest.
A top official of the black empowerment ministry said only Zimbabweans had the right to run shops that have sprung up across the country and are termed foreign businesses targeted under the nation’s black empowerment laws, the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported Friday.
Permanent secretary for the empowerment ministry, George Magosvongwe, told a Parliamentary committee that the government would enforce regulations which reserve certain sectors of the economy to Zimbabweans on January 1, 2014.
Under the country’s economic empowerment legislation, areas reserved for locals include retail and wholesale businesses, barbershops, hairdressings, beauty salons, bakeries, employment agencies and grain milling, among others.
“I confirm that some non-indigenous entities are still operating in the reserved sectors and there is a deadline for January 1 for them to comply with the requirement to relinquish their holdings in that sector,” Magosvongwe said.
He said the ministry was preparing measures to ensure the exit of foreigners from the retail sector would not result in shortages.
“There is need to ensure that we don’t create shortages in the economy, but certainly the ministry is going to enforce the reserved sectors rule,” he said.
“And we will bring in the enforcement agencies from right across the Government departments and the local authorities to ensure that enforcement happens.”
The January 1, 2014 ultimatum was gazette in May, making it mandatory for all locally and foreign-owned firms in reserved sectors to apply for indigenization compliance certificates.
Only locals will be given those certificates.
Those laws, passed in 2007, demand foreign businesses to cede 51 percent control to local blacks. The foreign shop owners have been criticized for taking retail trade opportunities from Zimbabwean traders by selling cheap imports.
Poor townships and city flea markets have in recent years been inundated by shops run by foreigners. According to state media, shop owners who fail to comply will be arrested.