DEPUTY Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara last week managed to manoeuvre President Robert Mugabe, blamed for ruining Zimbabwe’s thriving economy, to gatecrash the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Dar es Salaam despite initial resistance by the organisers.
Mugabe was in the Tanzanian capital to attend a meeting of former southern African liberation movements hosted by the East African country’s Chama ChaMapinduzi.
Other parties which attended the meeting included the African National Congress of South Africa, Frelimo of Mozambique, Swapo of Namibia and Zanu PF.
The parties were represented by their leaders and secretaries-general or equivalent.
Mugabe was not scheduled to speak at the WEF, but Mutambara lobbied for him to feature through the backdoor. WEF sources said this week that Mutambara, a member of the Forum of Young Global Leaders led by David Aikman, used his connections through WEF founder and executive chairman Professor Klaus Schwab to arrange for Mugabe’s surprise address.
“Mugabe was not scheduled to address the WEF at all,” a senior WEF official said. “He was there to attend the meeting of former liberation movements. Mutambara lobbied WEF officials, especially Professor Schwab, for Mugabe to be allowed to speak.
“Initially, they were reluctant because they didn’t know what he was going to say and the impact thereafter but they decided to take the risk and allowed him to be part in the proceedings.”
Mutambara this week refused to discuss the issue, only saying “what is important is that we had an interesting session on Zimbabwe at the WEF and the president was part of it”.
He refused to discuss how Mugabe, widely criticised for destroying Zimbabwe’s economy through extended periods of misrule and economic mismanagement, came to be part of it.
“We had a session at the WEF as the political principals. It was the first time for us to share a public platform outside the country and it proved to be the most interesting discussion of the meeting,” Mutambara said.
The session, under the topic “The Future of Zimbabwe”, featured Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Mutambara.
There was also Schwab, hotel chain African Sun chief executive Shingi Munyeza, local computer science expert Bongani Ncube, South African Old Mutual chief executive Kuseni Dlamini, Julie Gichuru, Group Digital manager and TV host at Royal Media Services in Kenya, and Runa Alam, chief executive of Development Partners International in the United Kingdom.
The panellists dealt with Zimbabwe’s future under the inclusive government and how businesses and investors were adjusting their operational strategies in view of recent political and economic developments.
Key points at the session included political reconciliation, sanctions, indigenisation and how to attract investment.
Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara said they were working together to turn around the country’s economy, which shrank by about 50% in the past decade. While the three have differences of opinion on detail, there is a willingness to move forward, the leaders claimed.
On travel bans, they agreed the measures created the impression among potential investors that the country is dysfunctional and an international renegade. They called for the lifting of sanctions.
Regarding indigenisation, they said discussions were underway for broad-based empowerment of locals on a sector-by-sector threshold basis to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach.
They said the economy has relatively stabilised due to a multi-currency regime and macro-economic reforms.— Staff Writer.