The Minister of Education has said that Zimbabwe’s bid to indigenise private schools is illegal.
A government notice issued last week by empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere gave foreign-owned banks and private schools a year to comply with a law requiring 51 percent shareholding by indigenous people.
But David Coltart said the directive was illegal.
The move has caused new fissures in the inclusive Government which was formed in 2008 by Zanu-PF, MDC-T and the MDC parties.
Zanu-PF says blacks should not only have political independence, but also economic independence – a move that should be supported by legislation.
“This action is unlawful, unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable,” Coltart said on his official Twitter account.
Coltart also told the Herald newspaper on Wednesday that Kasukuwere had previously assured him that private schools would not be targeted under the empowerment drive.
He said most private schools, formerly the preserve of whites but are now largely multi-racial, were owned by churches and trusts which also include black people on their management boards.
“The idea behind the Empowerment Act is to empower disadvantaged Zimbabweans and how can you enrich someone by giving him a non-profit making institution,” said Minister Coltart.
“Private schools are generally owned by churches or a trust and there is no shareholding to talk of.
“For Government to adopt such a policy would be nonsensical as the constitution gives individual groups a right to educate their children.”
The new regulations to take over private schools are contained in a notice published in the Government Gazzette last Friday.
The notice stated that schools with a net asset of $1 must have a 51 percent indigenous ownership.
Minister Coltart said he met Youth, Indeginisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere last week who assured him that schools will be spared from the programme.
“Last year in August, the Minister (Kasukuwere) approached me with the proposals, but after lengthy discussions he made an undertaking that the schools would not be part of the programme,” he said.
“This has come to me as a surprise and since there is no such Cabinet policy, I hope most members of the Cabinet would not buy such an idea.”
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai also criticised the move saying Kasukuwere’s latest announcement does not reflect the cabinet’s position.
Kasukuwere, has already forced mining companies such as Rio Tinto and Impala Platinum , the world’s second-largest platinum miner, to turn over majority stakes in their local units to black Zimbabweans, as required under the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act passed by parliament in 2007
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