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Zimbabwe government voids law restricting foreign ownership of companies

[JURIST] Zimbabwe's government on Wednesday declared void a law mandating that indigenous people have majority ownership in all businesses valued at over $500,000. The law took effect [JURIST report] last month, but the country's stock market has since fallen 10 percent [BBC report], causing concern that the law would drive away potential investors. The majority of firms within Zimbabwe that meet the $500,000 threshold are banks and mining companies, and shares in mining companies have fallen 20 percent since the law's enactment. The decrease in stock value is another obstacle for a country in dire economic straits, including an inflation rate [Guardian report] that has been as high as 231,000,000 percent. A spokesperson for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai [official website] indicated that the law, while void, will be reexamined [Al Jazeera report] as the government looks for the best way forward.

Critics of the law have compared it to the land reform program passed under the Robert Mugabe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] administration in 2000, which resulted in the government seizure of farm land [BBC report] from white farmers. In March, white farmers displaced by Zimbabwe's land reform program announced an intention to seize [Telegraph report] Zimbabwean government property in South Africa pursuant to the judgment of the Southern African Development Community Tribunal (SADC Tribunal) [official website]. In January, the Zimbabwe High Court ruled [JURIST report] that it is not bound by a decision of the SADC Tribunal that ordered the state to halt the land reform program for its discriminatory nature. Mugabe has faced harsh criticism [Guardian report] for the program, which has sought to redistribute white-owned land among the nation's indigenous farmers. In February 2006, the Zimbabwean land minister said that there are no white farmers operating legally [JURIST report] in Zimbabwe. The government has appropriated some 4,000 farms through the program.

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