Investment Conference Exposes Discord in GNU

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DEPUTY Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara yesterday openly differed with President Robert Mugabe on fundamental issues at the inaugural two-day Zimbabwe Investment Conference in the capital in an apparent show of discord in the unity government.

 

Mutambara spoke strongly against the stalling of the implementation of the global political agreement (GPA), attempts to foist the Kariba draft constitution on the people, and state failure to halt farm disruptions and the breakdown in the rule of law.

In a clear response to Mugabe’s recent declaration during his Zanu PF Central Committee and Consultative Assembly meetings that the Kariba draft would be the only reference document during the constitution-making process, Mutambara said Zimbabweans were yearning for a people-driven constitution.

The deputy premier said the inclusive government should take on board concerns raised by civic organisations on the constitutional process.

“We need a people-driven constitution, not the Kariba draft,” Mutambara said. “(National Constitutional Assembly chairperson Lovemore) Madhuku and labour movements must be involved in the (constitution-making) process. No to Kariba! If we do these things (taking on board concerns of civil society) the next elections will be free and fair.”

Mutambara said government should stop blaming the West and in particular the United States for the socio-economic decline, but should uphold the rule of law, respect property rights and resolve the outstanding issues of the GPA if the country is to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).

“For you to be trusted, credible to investors, we must resolve that matter (outstanding issues) because if we don’t we lose credibility. How can we convince investors if we don’t respect our own agreement,” Mutambara said.

Mugabe has in the past decade accused the West of destroying the country’s economy through sanctions after his government embarked on a controversial land reform programme in 2000.

Currently FDI contributes 4% of the gross domestic product and government is projecting 25% by the end of the implementation of the Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme in December.

On fresh farm invasions and disruptions affecting mostly white farmers, Mutambara said there was need for a moratorium on the disturbances which he blamed for food insecurity in the country.

“More than 80% of indigenous people now have land. There is enough land for everyone but we continue to face food shortages. What is needed is productivity, productivity; productivity…Sovereignty is not about ownership,” the deputy premier said.

Mugabe — who opened the investment indaba after Mutambara’s presentation — however blamed the perennial food shortages on economic sanctions and drought.

He credited the inclusive government with tackling matters of the rule of law and property rights amid pressure from Western Europe and the United States that more had to be done to restore confidence.

“Above all, Zimbabwe upholds the sanctity of property rights,” Mugabe said. “The formation of the inclusive government has strengthened our stable political environment making us more conducive to investment promotion. My government is committed to promoting the rule of law in all its facets,” Mugabe said.

After the octogenarian leader’s speech, Commercial Farmers Union president Trevor Gifford asked Mugabe whether his government would compensate white farmers evicted during the chaotic land reform programme.

Mugabe said he would only compensate “developments and improvements” the farmers made on the farms in line with the country’s constitution.

He said Britain, the former colonial master, should compensate the farmers for the land his government acquired.

“It’s not every white farm which will be taken. Not necessarily,” Mugabe said in reply to Gifford. “The responsibility of compensation rests on the shoulders of the British government and its allies. We pay compensation for developments and improvements. That is our obligation and we have honoured that.

Sure there must be some compensation. Let’s join hands and appeal to the British.”

Britain’s outgoing ambassador to Harare Andrew Pocock last month said his country had no obligation to pay the compensation.

“In the fairly recent past, the Zimbabwean government has said that compensation rests with the United Kingdom. Well it does not — either legally or morally,” Pocock said. “In Lancaster House, sovereignty was transferred to the Zimbabwean government. The disruption on the farms was not caused by anything to do with the United Kingdom, it was driven by Zimbabwean government policy … therefore we have no legal obligation for compensation. We’ve never accepted that, and we won’t.”

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told the conference that while there may be disagreement on the way the land reform was carried out, there was agreement on the need for it. He said a lot is being done to rectify what went wrong.

“We need to rectify the problems surrounding the land reform programme for the last 10 years and that that programme starts with the land audit followed by the land commission which will deal with all matters arising out of that audit and I am sure there are many, including issues of compensation, issues of title, issues of disputes on land,” Tsvangirai said. “I also say that perhaps we need now to move to a phase where the land issue in Zimbabwe has to be depoliticised, deracialised so that we deal with the phase of agricultural productivity.”

Mugabe assured investors that indigenisation laws, which some foreign investors dread in their quest to pour funds into the cash-strapped government, were misconstrued.

“Such policies as the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act should not be viewed as obstacles to investment promotion,” Mugabe said. “They should be welcomed as promotive of the greater participation of our people in the economy.”

Despite Mugabe’s attempts to put a gloss on the new administration, Mutambara maintained that more reforms had to be introduced by the government.

“We have challenges as an inclusive government and we should not gloss over them. This government, of which I am one of the leaders, must reward excellent failures and punish mediocre success. Most of us are mediocre and must be fired,” Mutambara said.

Government, according to Mutambara, should “take a plunge” in its bid to lure foreign investment. He said foreign investors should pour their resources into some loss-making state enterprises through Public/Private Partnerships and Build/Operate/Transfer deals. An investors’ prospectus released at the conference identified 10 state entities and private companies that could attract investors.

Mutambara said government “hates” foreign aid arguing that no state in history had achieved sustainable growth through such help.

Zimbabwe requires close to US$10 billion to revitalise the economy.

BY BERNARD MPOFU

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