THE Australian government says trade between Harare and Canberra can only improve once the Southern African nation upholds human rights and improves its doing business environment, ambassador to Zimbabwe Suzanne McCourt has said.
Relations between Zimbabwe and most Western governments, which have in recent times been on the mend, soured after government embarked on the chaotic land reform programme which saw white commercial farmers losing large tracts of land to blacks.
Addressing an Australia Day gathering in Harare on Tuesday, McCourt said as part of efforts to support the people to people linkages between Zimbabwe and Australia, the embassy is engaging with the government and other stakeholders in discussions on how to officially develop the interrelations as well as bring more Australian investment to Zimbabwe.
“We do this by encouraging respect for human rights, the rule of law and property rights (as well as) encouraging certainty and clarity of policies,” said McCourt.
She said Australian investors are ready to invest in the country if Harare is promoted as a competitive investment destination. The Australian ambassador said she encourages implementation of the new Constitution as among practical ways of attracting investment.
“We look forward to continuing to play our part in supporting Zimbabwean people to reach their full potential, economically, socially, and, even on the sporting field,” she said.
Currently, there are about 1 400 Australians living in Zimbabwe and over 30 000 Zimbabweans living in Australia.
Australia’s concern over the investment climate, marred by policy inconsistency, lack of respect for property rights and poor governance, comes as foreign investors have repeatedly called on government to review and clarify the Indigenisation Act which compels all foreign investors to relinquish at least 51% shareholding to indigenous Zimbabweans.
Earlier this month, government unveiled a new framework to the implementation of the law which sought to clarify and simplify the controversial regulations. It also set various available options and timelines for full compliance.