Who is a small-scale businessman?


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The common man in Zimbabwe always seems to be getting the wrong end of the stick. Rural black businessmen who bore the brunt of the liberation war, with some being forced out of business completely because of their “contribution”, believed that once they joined the non-racial Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce they would enjoy all the privileges formerly reserved for whites.

This might have been the case but then a new organisation – The Indigenous Business Development Centre – – whose name suggested it was their saviour was formed and most of them flocked to the new organisation. The subscription rates were quite cheap by any business standards but the IBDC, though black-led, is increasingly becoming an elitist organisation catering for well to – do business people.

The rural and small business people who had rushed to join the organisation and actually helped in its formation have been chucked out. The organisation is now led by people who are millionaires (at least in terms of their assets or credit worthiness.)

The government also seems to have reached the conclusion that these are the people it should help and not the rural businessperson often referred to as a rural trader. This is the impression one gets (although both the government and IBDC deny it) when one looks at the criteria to be used in the allocation of the $100 million set aside for the business community by the government.

Those who qualify are supposed to have a capital base of up to $2 million, total fixed assets of up to $3 million, employment levels of up to 150 and should be Zimbabweans owning at least 75 percent of the equity.

Although the money will be disbursed through commercial banks and other locally controlled financial institutions, these institutions can still demand collateral. This brings back the question of title deeds.

Rural business people have not been granted title deeds and even those who have set up large enterprises at growth points are still complaining about this. One company is even thinking of reversing its decision to invest more than $500 million at a growth point for this reason.

Besides there seems to be some restrictions as to who gets the money. Emphasis seems to be on those in manufacturing (virtually non-existent in the rural areas), mining (the same except for a few cooperatives), transport (goods only, leaving out buses which incidentally are the life blood of rural people as they are their link with the world not only in terms of transport but mail, news etc) and construction.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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