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Business leaders slam arrests

Dumisani Ndlela

BUSINESS leaders yesterday united in condemning a crackdown on managers accused of violating government-imposed price controls, saying they expected “aut

horities to fully respect and protect the legal rights of persons to conduct their business without fear of intimidation”.

The criticism by the business leaders marked the first ever public rebuke by business of government, whose record of using security agents to violate people’s rights and freedoms has been documented by both local and international rights-based groups.

The unprecedented criticism of the government-sanctioned clampdown was endorsed by the leadership of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe, the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce and well-known industrialist, Anthony Mandiwanza, the chief executive of Dairibord Holdings as well as chairman of private sector representatives on the National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP).

The NEDPP was formulated by the government through the Zimbabwe National Security Council, chaired by President Robert Mugabe.

Its aim has been to revive the country’s crisis-sapped economy through mobilisation of at least US$2,5 billion by last month.

“We condemn unreservedly the manner in which the police have gone about arresting and incarcerating our managers. There are clearly laid out procedures that respect the rights of citizens,” the business leaders said in a statement.

The reaction by the business executives follows the arrest of several managers for increasing prices without authority from government.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, who has taken charge of the country’s turn-around programme, this month called on industry players to halt price hikes, saying these militated against his turn-around efforts.

The business leaders said they were keen to cooperate with government in finding “practical and urgent solutions to our persistent and very serious economic problems”.

“As key players in the economy we should focus our attention on inflation and speedy (policy) implementation that guarantees the reversal of the downward trend and change our fortunes,” they said.

Zimbabwe is currently undergoing its worst economic crisis in history, characterised by shortages of basis food commodities as well as acute foreign currency and fuel shortages that have disrupted the normal functioning of the economy.

“Businesses are already operating under extremely difficult conditions and any further unwarranted harassment only serves to delay the prospects of the turnaround of our economy,” the business leaders said.

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