Home » Governance » Tread Carefully Between Business, Politics [editorial]

The arrival of a French delegation led by Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Mr Remy Rioux might be an indicator that time is close for Zimbabwe’s economy to break the wall of illegal sanctions.

This comes on the back of visits by delegations from even more politically-hostile countries like the US and Britain.

We also have corporate entities from the same nations operating in the country.

It is tempting to crow about how our detractors have realised that they cannot beat us and are now joining us. It is no secret that many of these Western governments have been working in various ways to depose President Mugabe. Some have apparently reached the conclusion that they have to work with him or forget about Zimbabwe.

Their war with him is covered in a lot of rhetoric around human rights and so-called electoral reforms. But everyone knows that it is the repossession of land from whites that is at the centre of the war with President Mugabe and Zimbabwe.

Fortunately for Zimbabwe, we have friends like the Chinese and Russians as well as fellow African nations who have stood by us and ensured we soldier on. Recently, the Chinese and the Russians extended us lifelines in the form of mega investment deals to boost infrastructure development.

Now we have the awkward situation where the same Western nations which maintain partisan sanctions against our country and leadership have companies that are trying to engage Zimbabwe at the economic level because they realise they risk losing out.

While their politicians demonise Zimbabwe, entrepreneurs want to get a foothold in early after finally realising that the country will not implode.

They have realised that predictions of an imminent regime change which started more than a decade ago have failed to materialise.

Having said that, it is also important for us as a country to learn to separate business from political rhetoric at a certain level. It is clear that most of the government-to-government business initiatives by the US and its allies lack sincerity.

Their offers for partnership come bundled up with what Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete described recently as “degrading conditions”.

They tell us to clean up our human rights track record by zeroing in on some obscure attention seekers while ignoring instances of heinous crimes against humanity routinely perpetrated by their own nations. For example, the Americans seem to have selective amnesia which allows them to preach to the world about human rights while remaining blind to Guantanamo and the young black men routinely shot and killed by their police or are jailed by their own government.

But that is separate from companies which see opportunities in Zimbabwe after waiting for years for politicians to resolve their differences. We need to appreciate that business is business and that entrepreneurs will always follow opportunities. While we remain wary of the machinations of politicians, we must at the same time welcome well-meaning entrepreneurs by creating an atmosphere that is conducive to investment and development. There is need to cut on the red tape to facilitate entry of new companies. There is also need for one-stop platforms to clarify policies and security of investment. Once that is done, the finer details should be left to technocrats who should study and approve investment proposals in line with Government’s economic empowerment policies. Investors are upfront in wanting to exploit an opportunity and make a profit.

We want to achieve inclusive development, to create wealth and create employment and ensure that local people are the primary beneficiaries from our abundant natural resources. There is need to balance the two. Last year it came to that high ranking officials were deeply involved in corrupt activities.

We have since gotten rid of Dr Ten Percent and her cohorts. But it looks like we still have rotten apples in the system pursuing personal enrichment at the expense of the national good. They must be weeded out to promote investment.

Local businessmen should be playing a prominent role in promoting investment in the country and clarifying Government policies than playing political games. Land reform and other economic empowerment policies are here to stay.

That is the only way Zimbabwe can pull its people out of the spiral of poverty and consolidate its sovereignty.

Source : The Herald