SOUTH African Trade and Industry deputy minister Elizabeth Thabethe (pictured) (ET) is in Zimbabwe, leading a trade and investment delegation of 33 companies.
Report by Faith Zaba
Zimbabwe Independent News Editor Faith Zaba (FZ) spoke to her on Wednesday on several issues including trade, investment, indigenisation and intra-Africa trade.
FZ: Investors have expressed concern over Zimbabwe’s indigenisation policy. Is this an issue among South African investors?
ET: They (the business delegations) want to seek clarity on how it is going to work and how it is going to be implemented. That is what people are asking. Overall people are positive. They are keen to contribute to the recovery of the Zimbabwe economy.
FZ: The balance-of-trade between the two countries is one sided. How can this be redressed?
ET: As you know it is skewed in our favour. So if we were another country, we would sit and relax) we have nothing to lose. But we don’t believe in that. We believe in working together and dealing with the imbalances. We have businesspeople coming in so that they can end up investing here.
FZ: How sustainable is this skewed trade balance in the long term?
ET: We live in a global village and you can’t work as an island. It (trade imbalance) will take time to be balanced. We believe in doing these trade missions (since) it is then that we try and deal with the trade imbalance.
FZ: Bippa agreements have often been disregarded. What is South Africa doing to deal with such issues?
ET: They should go to the embassy which is able to deal with them. It’s not like they are not getting any help. The ambassador must be vocal in assisting and supporting some of the moves here to make sure that we can have a fair trade.
FZ: But when such cases happen, doesn’t that put off investors in Zimbabwe?
ET: The people who are doing business from South Africa are increasing, not decreasing. If there were bigger problems, we wouldn’t find South African people investing here. We still have a lot of companies that are operating here. So in essence, when problems arise, they are tackled.
FZ: Do the impending elections have an impact on investment and trade?
ET: We believe that every country has its own systems of democratic processes and elections come and go. The country can’t stop just because there are elections. Elections are going to come and we hope that they will be free and fair. Governments come and go (and) some are re-elected, but people-to-people relations stay.
FZ: What are your views on a single regional currency?
ET: That can only come after thorough negotiations. Just look at the euro zone; there are problems now. Remember we are developing countries (and) a developing continent. The needs and priorities are much more. We can come to that at a later stage. To me, it is too early to talk about a single currency.
FZ: How would you describe the two countries’ relations?
ET: Without the political will, you won’t have the economic relations with other countries. You first have to have the political relationship. You need the political will and the political relationship so that the government to government economic relationship is also informed in what you do. So far, the relationship between our two heads of state seems OK.
It has paved the way for some of the things that are happening now.