The fiction of wise investors from the East

THERE is very little reason for us to believe officious announcements on Zimbabwe’s diplomatic victories or investment deals sealed foll

owing President Mugabe’s foreign currency guzzling trips to the East.

As direct foreign investors continue to thumb their noses at Zimbabwe’s wretched economic policies, our rulers have resorted to inventing funny little stories of gargantuan investment deals purportedly sealed with investors from newly-found friends in China, Russia and of late Iran.

There is also official adulation over supposed diplomatic victories by Zimbabwe over its foes in the West and in the region. Two key events over the last seven days have helped to expose government’s infantile plans.

Last Friday, the official media screamed that South Africa had scrapped stringent visa requirements on Zimbabwe. The celebratory tone of the story appeared to suggest that South Africa had acquiesced to a diplomatic onslaught by Zimbabwe to liberalise the visa regime.

The story turned out to be a BIG lie because there has not been such an undertaking from Tshwane. The South African government had to run press adverts to correct this deliberate disinformation.

Then on Monday, another parcel of state disinformation came out in the form of a story that suggested that Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) was taking a US$ 3 billion at the corruption-peppered Ziscosteel. In a bid to convince a generally sceptical populace, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to China Chris Mutsvangwa talked of Zisco regaining “its status as the biggest steel manufacturer in Africa south of the Sahara”.

MCC was quick off the blocks the next day to tell the world through news agencies: “There’s no such thing. We haven’t bid for it at all.”

It was another BIG lie and an embarrassing one for government as the confutation came from a supposed close friend.

This kindergarten exercise of building castles in the air is being perfected into an art-form in a bid to bribe our conscience that the economy is about to turn the corner as a result of diplomatic victories and investment in mining and power generation.

The denial by the Chinese that they were taking a 60% stake in Zisco is a key event which casts doubt on the truthfulness of other announcements by government that it had secured investment.

The denial also raises questions about the value to the country of President Mugabe and his huge delegations’ trips in search of investment. They have very little to show for it. What is apparent is a well-beaten path leading to a morgue of failed deals predating the current phase of the Look East thrust in which the Chinese have been elevated to the pedestal of messiah.

We recall that the initial phase of the Look East policy had Malaysia and Indonesia featuring prominently and how the experience of the Asian Tigers was perceived to be the panacea to our problems. Don’t we recall businessman Enoch Kamushinda’s plans to establish electronic factories in Harare with the help of Malaysian investors? We have still not been told what became of plans which “were at an advanced stage” four years ago.

Can President Mugabe and his delegations to Malaysia justify the foreign currency spent in hiring planes and staying at expensive holiday resorts in the East?

The same drama is being replayed but with China having now replaced Malaysia as the flavour of the month. The Big lie concept is still being employed religiously.

Vice-President Joice Mujuru came back from China in August to announce that Zimbabwe had signed a US$1,3 billion energy deal with that country. The deal involved the exploitation of coal in Dande and the establishment of thermal power plants in the area. This was another flight into fantasy.

Had the MCC not responded quickly to clarify the status of the Ziscosteel deal, our government could have added this dud agreement onto the list of achievements of the National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP). There is now every reason to believe that the NEDPP is premised on imaginary deals in the mould of failed Malaysian tie-ups.

But our government continues to be blind to the basic fact that there is no substitute for prudent economic policies and the rule of law when it comes to attracting investment.

Our rulers would rather resort to fiction.

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