Government and the private sector should draw valuable lessons from the listing of Old Mutual Zimbabwe Limited (OMZIL) empowerment shares on the Financial Securities (FINSEC) Alternative Trading Platform (ATP) set for today.The diversified financial services group will become the first company, in line with its approved indigenisation implementation plan, to trade a total of 83 011 718 issued and fully paid B Class shares in the capital of the company.
As reported in The Herald Business yesterday, the shares have a nominal value of $0,0000032 per share.
We are heartened to see a group such as Old Mutual Zimbabwe warming up to the indigenisation plan.
The first lesson we can draw from the trade is that the Government’s empowerment programme is not some dinosaur seeking to devour the corporate sector. Caledonia Mine successfully indigenised and its community in Matabeleland South is reaping the benefits of this programme. And BAT Zimbabwe, a Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed company, also gave its workers shareholding under its plan and with the recent bull run on its share price, the employees are now fully empowered. Other companies such as Schweppes and PPC also had their empowerment plans implemented.
There has always been a chorus of detractors pouring scorn on the indigenisation programme, seeking to paint the picture of an evil machination by Government designed to rip industry off its profits and shareholding.
Private and international media and local opposition elements keen to advance their foreign masters’ plans, have all out-stampeded each other to condemn the noble empowerment plans.
And for years we have sought to highlight that the empowerment drive is not an election gimmick but a reality born out of the need to help the economically marginalised.
And here we are today.
Old Mutual Zimbabwe, one of the biggest corporates in the country, has just confirmed that.
Another lesson we can draw from this development is that the empowerment plan has been broadened to accommodate small buyers.
According to the Securities and Exchange Act (Cap 24:25), the ATP is a lower and second rate exchange.
It is an alternative to the traditional stock exchange. And this will allow those small traders who have for many years been shut out of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange to participate.
The fact that trades happen on the open market enhances transparency in the empowerment programme. In the past there have been concerns relating to the distribution of shares in companies but trading on the ATP will ensure transparency.
Also, the market will determine the price of shares on the ATP and this will potentially deliver fair value.
With these lessons, we then call on other companies to take the same route and allow participation of the workers and local communities.
This could be an easier and yet more rewarding route for the corporates and the marginalised communities.
It is our fervent hope that we will see more corporates coming on board on the ATP to trade empowerment shares.
We are heartened by Government’s resolve to ensure that foreign-owned companies are partially indigenised as this gives Zimbabweans access to resources that have for long been in the hands of the elite.
We are pleased to note that OMZIL’s indigenisation plan, approved by the then Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, was concluded at a time when there was concerted effort to scuttle the programme. But OMZIL proceeded to follow the law to the letter.
Old Mutual has shown that it is a law abiding corporate citizen ready to contribute to the empowerment of Zimbabweans and ultimately economic development. Zimbabwe needs more of such corporates.
Government should push harder to have more Zimbabweans empowered. We need to see more initiatives focused on empowerment.
While Government is working on creating a conducive environment for business, the private sector must also do its part to comply with the law.
We say well done to Old Mutual for endorsing Government’s programme and congratulate FINSEC, a local firm, for having its first listing!