CONSENSUS is increasingly building on what the Zimbabwean government needs to do to pull the country out of the current economic doldrums. The country needs to find a way to recover from more than 15 years of devastating economic turmoil.
While a lot needs to be done to fix the broken country, wrecked by an incompetent and corrupt leadership pushing bad policies, the good thing is that even President Robert Mugabe’s key officials and friends now see where the problem lies.
As reported in the Zimbabwe Independent last week, frank Chinese leaders reportedly gave Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa a sobering reality check when he visited Beijing recently by raising several critical issues Mugabe and his government usually feel uncomfortable dealing with. The Chinese raised a number of concerns about Zimbabwe, some which later found expression in the vice-president’s largely frank interview with CCTV.
Diplomats and officials who were part of the delegation to Beijing said Chinese mandarins raised fears about Mugabe’s age, Zanu PF leadership renewal, Zimbabwe’s investment climate and ease of doing business, the country’s relations with Western countries, corruption and bureaucratic red tape, among other things.
The Chinese also said they are worried about Zimbabwe’s high political, economic and country risks, as well as poor credit rating. They spoke about the need to create a hospitable investment environment, property rights and corporate governance. They cited their own history as a point of reference and country as a model of how Zimbabwe, with leadership and political will, can dig itself out and move forward.
The Independent’s story last week and previous reports were confirmed in parliament this week when a senior government official said China has told Harare to improve its investment climate and address its indigenisation policy which has kept investors at bay while fuelling capital flight. Desire Sibanda, Ministry of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion permanent secretary, said on Tuesday visiting business delegations have complained about the indigenisation policy as one of the major investment barriers.
“In the past seven months we have received over 40 delegations coming to scout for investment. These, including the Chinese Council for Promoting South to South Co-operation, have raised some concerns regarding the country’s investment climate and they strongly recommended that we should reform our investment climate,” Sibanda said. “The first problem they have raised is the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act. They view the 51/49 threshold as a disincentive because they are saying it denies the foreign investor a controlling stake in their investments and so forth. They would prefer to have the majority shareholding than a minority in their investment projects.”
Everybody — except Mugabe and his blindly loyal cabal — now sees where the real problem basically lies. Government must adopt reforms and change course. It must repeal its toxic indigenisation policy and create a new policy framework. We have reached a point where authorities must now wise up, listen more, act and talk less.