Harare – Zimbabwe’s central bank chief Gideon Gono on Thursday warned the government against its planned seizure of majority stakes in foreign-owned banks, saying the move breached the country’s own banking laws.
“There is no law that provides for arbitrariness on the part of anyone and or expropriation of banking assets in Zimbabwe yesterday, today or tomorrow,” Gono said in a statement.
Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kasukuwere in a government notice made public this week gave foreign banks and other companies a year to cede a 51% stake to locals, as required under current laws.
Gono said he will discuss the threats with President Robert Mugabe.
“I will soon be consulting with and obtaining further guidance from … President Robert Mugabe on the latest moves by the minister in relation to the sector that I superintend, the banking sector,” said Gono.
Mugabe’s “instructions will be final in the manner in which we will proceed”, he added.
Zimbabwe in 2007 enacted a law that forces all foreign-owned companies to hand over a majority stake of 51% to local people.
The law has led mining firms, including the country’s biggest platinum mine Zimplats, which is a subsidiary of South Africa’s ImpalaPlatinum Holdings [JSE:IMP], to submit schedules on how they will surrender a majority share.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a partner with Mugabe in a coalition government, has dismissed the ultimatum on the banks as illegal and a threat to the ailing economy’s recovery prospects.
Britain’s Standard Chartered Bank and Barclays Bank are among the major foreign banks with operations in the former British colony.
Gono said Zimbabweans wishing to set up banks should apply “and we will give them a licence to join the sector at 100% ownership (rather) than waste money in taking over other people’s banks”.
The latest notice, aside from banks, also covers schools, universities, hotels and telecommunications firms.