Business leaders urge

BUSINESS leaders have urged President Robert Mugabe and the country’s opposition to bury their differences to rescue a once-prosperous economy, battered by a five-year recession.



Helvetica, sans-serif”>Zimbabwe’s economy was expected to grow this year after contracting by about a third since 2000, but analysts believe that the disputed results of last week’s parliamentary election could worsen its political and economic crisis.


Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF delivered a crushing defeat to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which has demanded a re-run because of alleged voting irregularities.


African observers — including the 14-nation Southern African Development Community, the African Union and several national teams — have said the polls were credible.


The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, which represents big business in the country, said it was time to “move forward”.


“Now that these elections are behind us we should all focus on moving the economy forward. We need to put Zimbabwe ahead of other personal or political considerations,” CZI president Patison Sithole said on Monday.


“If collaboration between the two parties is what is required to bring economic revival then we should pursue it wholeheartedly,” he added.


President Mugabe said at the weekend he was willing to work with his defeated opponent in parliament, but stipulated that the talks would be on his terms. His party took 78 of 120 contested seats against just 41 for the MDC, while one independent was elected.


But MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has demanded a re-run of the parliamentary election, saying constitutional changes were needed to cut Zanu PF’s influence over electoral bodies.


“Zimbabwe cannot go through another period like the last five years. There has to be a consensus between the two parties that can see us move forward,” said Nigel Chanakira, one of the main shareholders in Zimbabwe’s Kingdom Bank.


“Zanu-PF only won as a result of the rural vote but the MDC controls the cities and the economy of the country is there, so the two have to come together and map the way forward. There has been enough bickering and it is not helping the country at all.”


Chanakira has moved to South Africa, the continent’s economic powerhouse and Zimbabwe’s main trade partner.


Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of inflation in the world, unemployment of 70% and acute shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency.


Critics blame the crisis on government mismanagement, including the seizure of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to landless blacks.


Mutumwa Mawere, another businessman in self-imposed exile in South Africa, said his country needed to mend fences with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.


Many Western donors have frozen economic aid to Zimbabwe because of Mugabe’s controversial policies, a step which the government says is unfair and invited by the opposition.


“We need cohesive policies to enable economic growth but the fact that the country is still facing foreign currency shortages means that it needs support from international financiers,” Mawere said.


“Economic revival will not be possible without outside help.” — Reuter.

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