NEWS that German ambassador Hans Gnodtke has warned his country might pull out of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly due to be held in Victoria Falls later this year if government does not guarantee protection of its nationals must be a worrying development for Tourism minister Walter Mzembi who has worked hard to make the event a success.
Candid Comment with Iden Wetherell
Gnodtke reminded the government it had invited Germans to invest in the country under the terms of a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa) but this agreement had been ignored.
The ambassador said recent assurances by Lands and Resettlement minister Herbert Murerwa that investments under Bippa would be spared remained just a statement of intent until government acted.
The latest violation has witnessed powerful Zanu PF apparatchiks, who have already benefited from land reform, hunting in the Save Conservancy.
Murerwa’s statement that there will be no more seizures of foreign-owned farms has come too late for many. Investors from Mauritius and South Africa have lost properties in the Lowveld. Sugar estates as well as game conservancies have been seized while a large ostrich scheme in Matabeleland has fallen victim to local predators.
It is against this background that Ambassador Gnodtke issued his warning. Next month European Union governments will meet to discuss the sanctions regime. Zanu PF likes to pretend sanctions were imposed as part of a bilateral dispute with the UK.
In fact they were the product of political violence and electoral manipulation as reported by an EU observer mission in 2002 headed by Pierre Schori. The government found Schori’s report inconvenient so he was expelled.
Now Zimbabwe is demanding the lifting of the sanctions claiming to have cleaned up its act, as reflected in Murerwa’s remarks.
But it must be evident to even the most simple-minded observers that very little has changed on the ground.
The farms audit remains a mirage, senior civil servants are still blatantly partisan, broadcasting is the fiefdom of the former ruling party as it attempts to claw back its electoral losses, while local government has sunk into a state of anarchy as Zanu PF supporters build wherever they like.
In the midst of this chaos we have the sad prospect of a party hoping to win power that is asleep at the wheel.
They are reluctant to tell us what they stand for, slow to respond to the mendacious claims of our erstwhile rulers, and only too keen to learn from their mistakes. Meanwhile their leader is pressing for a motorcade which is the last thing the motorists of Harare want to see on their roads.
Zimbabwe, I am sorry to report at the beginning of 2013, is a mess. For those of us following events over the years, it is galling to have people remind one that much of this was forecast by our detractors, to use a current term.
One particularly vocal detractor, a former prime minister, was unrepentant in his Belgravia exile. We joked that he didn’t need to give interviews to his many press visitors. Instead a large banner across his driveway would be sufficient bearing the inscription “Told You So”.
Let’s hope he was not entirely right!