Sadc Summit: Zim’s time to refocus

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The theme for the Sadc Summit, which Zimbabwe is hosting in Victoria Falls this month, is forward-looking and expresses a keenness by the regional bloc to act on an issue that has remained unresolved since the end of colonialism more than 40 years ago.

Zimbabwe Independent Editorial

President Robert Mugabe who assumes the Sadc chair on a rotational basis is a man known to grab every opportunity to portray himself as a doyen of economic emancipation and an embodiment of social development.

His officials have already started to build the nexus between this Mugabe fervour and the summit’s theme.

“(The theme) Sadc strategy for economic transformation: leveraging the region’s diverse resources for sustainable economic and social development through beneficiation and value addition, resonates with our national agenda,” Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told a media briefing recently.

At the same briefing, the minister explained the ethos of the theme: “That’s the paradox. Why are we poor? Because we do not get the full benefit of our natural resources and this is the thrust we would want to champion not only during Mugabe’s chairmanship of Sadc …” Mumbengegwi is right that Zimbabweans have not realised the full benefit of being endowed with natural resources. It is also true that Zimbabwe is a poor country.

Mugabe will have to find a much more plausible explanation for this contradiction other than the now all too familiar neo-colonialism mantra.

This tired line has now lost its lustre and Mugabe as new head of Sadc has to rise above this scapegoating and address fundamental issues which have stifled growth in a region that’s so rich in natural resources. Zimbabwe — which wants to advance the notion of economic emancipation through natural resource exploitation — has very little to show in this area. Mugabe may come unstuck in explaining to fellow heads how Zimbabwe has benefited from the exploitation of diamonds in Marange.

Will he tell his colleagues that the Zimbabwe government and its military establishment has a shareholding in diamond mines but the Minister of Finance does not know what happened to revenues from the mining venture? What is evident though is how certain individuals in government and in parastatals suddenly became very rich when diamonds were discovered in Marange.

But Zimbabwe will also hear of success stories from Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola, whose economies have shown sustained growth due to prudent natural resource exploitation.

This summit should therefore be an opportunity for Mugabe to learn from his peers the tonic to attracting investment in natural resource exploitation and how to ensure that mineral wealth benefits the economy and not a few individuals.

The summit will fail if Zimbabwe sees this as an opportunity to export its failed indigenisation project and retrogressive investment models, which has seen foreign capital skirting this country.

Sadc heads should not fritter away the opportunity presented by the summit to discuss clear policies on natural resources, lest we remain forever poor.

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