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Germany Threatens Disinvestment Over AAG Spat

GERMANY has warned the government that revival of trade relations between the two countries may be endangered after an economic empowerment body, the Affirmative Action Group (AAG), threatened a German company for allegedly declining to embrace indigenisation.


In a letter of complaint to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday, the German Embassy in Harare said the AAG’s action “highly endangers our recent efforts to resuscitate Zimbabwean-German business relations which are part of the broader relations between Zimbabwe and the EU”.

 

While the letter did not mention the name of the company allegedly threatened by the AAG, state media last Thursday identified the firm as DHL Zimbabwe.

The embassy said the company was being threatened for not employing a Zimbabwean as its country director.

“It is with great concern that we learned about the threats which were put forward against a German company in Harare by members of a group called “Affirmative Action Group”, a note verbale read. “The company’s interim director from South Africa was reproached for not employing a Zimbabwean citizen as its future director and for the fact that the company was not partially owned by Zimbabweans.”

The embassy said the threat culminated in the demand to “disinvest” under these conditions.

After the threats, the embassy claimed the firm received negative publicity and “the company’s employees do strongly feel intimidated”.

The firm has 100 Zimbabwean employees.

“As an embassy we cannot credibly lobby for German investment to come back to Zimbabwe as long as such harassment takes place and respective instigating news are disseminated by state-media. These kinds of acts furthermore seriously challenge the Prime Minister (Morgan Tsvangirai)’s latest declaration of Zimbabwe’s readiness to do business with the rest of the world,” the letter read.

However, AAG president Supa Mandiwanzira yesterday told the Zimbabwe Independent in Bulawayo that it was unfortunate that the German Embassy had turned “a domestic issue into a diplomatic one”.

“The German Embassy should know that the AAG is not a department of the Zimbabwe government, not funded by it but is an independent lobby group that has a reputable track record in advancing the cause of indigenous Zimbabweans. If they have any issues with AAG they should engage us directly,” Mandiwanzira said.

He said the decision by the embassy of “rushing to petition government without engaging them directly” was unfortunate.

“The contents of the letter are based on half truths. As AAG we would like to engage the embassy directly on this issue and they will be embarrassed by their rushed action of petitioning government with information that is far from being true,” Mandiwanzira said.  “The said company, DHL Zimbabwe, has had several meetings with us on complaints raised by its workers and resolved them amicably. They even apologised to us on the racist remarks made by its management.”

He added that the AAG fully supported government calls for foreign investment.
“The German Embassy should know that AAG is encouraging German companies to invest in Zimbabwe but companies should not come only to exploit our resources at the expense of locals,” Mandiwanzira said.

BY NQOBILE BHEBHE

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