[JURIST] Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has signed into law a bill [text; BBC backgrounder] requiring key industries, like mining and banking, to be controlled by local owners, a government newspaper reported on Sunday. Government officials have tried to address concerns around the "Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Bill" by saying that it will not result in the immediate seizure of foreign controlled assets, but instead that timelines for majority control of these business to be handed over to Zimbabwean interests would be set for each industry.
The bill has been staunchly opposed by members of Zimbabwe's opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change [party website], who have said it merely seeks to enrich Mugabe's political allies and to win his party votes in the upcoming March elections. The plan has also been criticized by those who believe it will share the fate of the country's farm seizure program, a plan whereby the government expropriated over 4,000 white-owned farms as part of a set of constitutional reforms [JURIST reports] in 2005. That plan has been blamed for being significantly responsible for the country's catastrophic 100,000 percent inflation rate, because so many of the farms failed under new, inexperienced ownership. Reuters has more. Government-run Sunday Mail Reporter has local coverage.