Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Investment remains doubtful despite PM's progress speech By Alex Bell
17 September 2010
Delegates at Thursday's Future of Zimbabwe summit have said that serious doubts remain about investing in the country, until there are visible changes on the ground.

The summit in Johannesburg looked at the investment environment in Zimbabwe, the impact of the country's brain drain, the future of agriculture and food security and the ethics of investment in Zimbabwe.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was the keynote speaker and made an effort to encourage investment in the country, saying there was tangible progress in economic reforms.

While conceding the pace of progress has been slow and limited, Tsvangirai said the past 18 months under the unity government had witnessed steps forward in the implementation of political and economic reforms. He went on to cite a few examples of this economic turnaround, singling out the return of health workers and availability of medicines in hospitals, teachers and books in schools, food in supermarkets and granaries, as well as water, fuel, stable currency and a single digit inflation.

But the summit went ahead against a backdrop of worrying developments in Zimbabwe that are contrary to Tsvangirai's accounts of progress and change.

On Tuesday a farm illegally seized by a ZANU PF senator was burned to the ground, despite a bilateral investment protection agreement and a protective court order, as part of the ongoing onslaught against Zimbabwe's commercial farming community. Robert Mugabe also recently insisted that the controversial business indigenisation programme will go ahead, which will see foreign companies in the country forced to hand over 51% of their shares to pre-selected Zimbabweans.
Alongside this the exercise to gather public opinion on a new constitution has faltered marred by incidents of violence and intimidation.

At the same time, a deadline set by Southern African leaders for the unity government to implement the two year old Global Political Agreement

(GPA) has come and gone, and there is still no sign from either the MDC or ZANU PF that there will be any real change.

Despite all this Tsvangirai still moved to defend Robert Mugabe as his partner in the government, saying he was committed to change. Tsvangirai told a news conference after the summit on Thursday that Mugabe could rescue his legacy as the country's liberator.

I suppose Robert Mugabe has been portrayed as a demon, he said. He himself made a contribution to that caricature because I cannot defend what he did over the last 10 years in terms of violence, in terms of expropriation and all these other activities.

Tsvangirai continued: But there is also a positive contribution to our country that he has made. Remember that he was the national liberation hero, and so those are positive years. I suppose there is the personality conflict between a hero and a villain, of which you have to make an assessment.

History will have to judge him.

Zimbabwean businessman Trevor Ncube, who owns the recently launched NewsDay paper, said the government was yet to put together policies to entice investors into the country. Ncube was one of the speakers at Thursday's summit. He told SW Radio Africa on Friday that there was still doubt that the current reforms Tsvangirai was speaking about could be sustained.

Government has to create political stability that guarantees security for people to go back home and for investors to funnel money into the country, Ncube said. There is still understandable wariness about investing in the country, because there are no guarantees of any sustainable change.

John Worsley-Worswick from Justice for Agriculture (JAG) was another speaker at Thursday's summit, and he told SW Radio Africa that the summit appeared to be a propaganda exercise.

There is a great deal of scepticism about investing in the country, and it's understandable given the lack of normalcy in the country, Worsley-Worswick said. But what we found alarming was the deliberate effort to paint over the cracks.

PM describes progress at future of Zimbabwe summit
Written by SW Radio Africa -
Friday, 17 September 2010

As the farming community mourns the loss of yet another commercial farm in Zimbabwe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai  has described as tangible progress in the country.

Tsvangirai was speaking at the Future of Zimbabwe summit in Johannesburg on Thursday, where delegates gathered for a one day conference to debate the country's economic future and investment potential. Tsvangirai, the key note speaker, said he believes the country is making progress in all sectors of the economy.

'We chose progress over violence, polarisation, decline and decay.

Zimbabwe is moving forward. From the darkness of madness and self-destruction, to the new dawn of a new Zimbabwe,' said Tsvangirai in his address.

'This progress is tangible. Yes, it is slow. But it is there.'

He went on to cite a few examples of this economic turnaround, singling out the return of health workers and availability of medicines in hospitals, teachers and books in schools, food in supermarkets and granaries, as well as water, fuel, stable currency and a single digit inflation.

He added however that the failed policies of the past government, led by Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF, continued to haunt the country.

'Disdain for the rule of law and property rights continue to undermine our image as a safe investment destination,' said Tsvangirai.

'Disdain' for property rights is the closest Tsvangirai came to mentioning the ongoing farm invasions in the country, which are making a mockery of any attempts to encourage foreign investors. Many of the farm attacks have targeted properties meant to be protected by Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPA) with foreign countries. But these BIPPA's have done nothing to persuade Mugabe loyalists from invading commercial farms and violently evicting farmers.

Some observers have commented that the Prime Minister is showing insensitivity by trying to promote Zimbabwe has a safe investment zone, when it is so clear that there are no guarantees of investment safety.

Robert Mugabe also said this month that he will press ahead with plans to transfer control of foreign firms to local Zimbabweans, as part of the controversial indigenisation exercise. But Tsvangirai on Thursday tried to downplay this threat, saying the process would be implemented gradually and without forced sales.

'What's being implemented are minimum thresholds. You can't start with 51 percent, Tsvangirai said. But you also have to say how, over time, you are going achieve the maximum threshold.'

But with the MDC so clearly lacking any power in the unity government, it is unlikely that Tsvangirai will have any say over how Mugabe's indigenisation plan should be implemented.

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