THE recent Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) congress, which brought together more than 250 business executives to the Victoria Falls, seems to have paved the way for cooperation bet
ween government and the private sector, analysts have said.
It, however, still leaves behind the labour movement that is the cog of the industrial wheel.
The CZI is the country’s most powerful business grouping.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono told businessdigest that it was “pleasantly surprising to see business and government moving almost in the same direction when they were at loggerheads about two years ago”.
“The turnout was surprising,” he said. “At least we are moving in the right direction.”
Outgoing CZI president Antony Mandiwanza said gone were the days of confrontation with government which had been the norm two years ago when government accused the industrial body of sabotaging the economy and supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The CZI was then led by Jacob Dube.
President Robert Mugabe on two occasions postponed his participation at the CZI congress, and analysts said he was “wary that he could be dressed down” by the industrialists.
National Tyre Services chief executive officer Donal McDevitt, who also doubles up as Dunlop Zimbabwe managing director, said the country had been stabilised but needed to “fix various factors” such as the exchange rate, inflation, as well as cooperation with the international community.
“There has been a serious shift in attitude between government and the private sector,” he said.
However, controversial businessman and managing director and chief executive officer of the South African-based Africa Technology and Business Institute, Arthur Mutambara, said there would be no progress if government and the private sector continued to ignore labour.
He blasted the CZI saying it was not serious about economically empowering indigenous entrepreneurs.
“You are not serious gentlemen,” he said in his address. “Ministers are here. CZI bosses are here, but where is labour and civil society? Gentlemen you are not serious.”
He said there was too much cronyism in the business sector with the same individuals receiving chunks of shares and loans at the expense of the poor.
“We are violating property rights by giving everything to the elite,” he said.
Mandiwanza said the problem with previous events was that there was “misguided confrontation instead of constructive dialogue”.
“We need to be able to accept constructive criticism,” he said. “That is the only way we can solve the problems together.”
Gono, however, blasted CZI, saying it needed to be more aggressive in breaking into new markets in the region and the international arena and take advantage of trading blocs.
“It is also high time that as Zimbabweans we start to appraise and account for viability from a holistic point of view, taking into account the entire array of support being given to producers as opposed to merely looking at one variable, the often one being the exchange rate,” he said.