Zimbabwe and Israel are deepening their co-operation, culminating in the appointment of Ronny Levi Musan (RM, pictured) as Zimbabwe’s honorary consul in Israel by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Senior reporter Tinashe Kairiza (TK) this week spoke to the diplomat who explained how the two countries are fostering relations in the field of security, diamonds, tourism and agriculture. Below are excerpts of the interview:
TK: You were appointed Zimbabwe’s honorary consul in Israel by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in August, how did this appointment come to be and how did you take it?
RM: Following my activities in Africa, about five ago I was invited to visit Zimbabwe which lasted about two weeks and I saw the amazing people there, this beautiful country, and I wanted to work more in Zimbabwe and try to do everything possible to connect Zimbabwe more to Israel on a practical level. After the first visit, I visited Zimbabwe several more times and met with a number of ministers, and church leaders and just fell in love with the place and the people.
This is actually what led me to His Excellency, President Mnangagwa. I wanted to start my relationship with His Excellency the President on the spiritual level precisely, because if we put God first, then we will succeed.
From there it continued through my activities with the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry and with the Foreign ministry in Zimbabwe in order to promote diplomatic relations between the countries that already exist.
TK: As part of your responsibilities, what are some of your key objectives and what have you achieved so far?
RM: My main responsibility in the position I received from His Excellency the President, is to do everything possible in every field in order to bring knowledge and support from Israel to Zimbabwe and vice-versa. This role is so diverse because there are endless important issues that need to be really examined and addressed and not just fiddling with empty slogans.
The main issues in my eyes are technologies in the field of agriculture, education and innovation. These are in my opinion the cornerstones that will return the crown to Zimbabwe as the “Grain Basket” of Africa.
The people in Zimbabwe are known as very intelligent people, who love their country. It is impossible to sell them stories and slogans. I am happy about that, because if we know how to share with them the existing knowledge that exists in Israel in these areas, Zimbabwe will be an empire. Of course, there are other issues that can help Zimbabwe that we are addressing such as: energy, tourism, water, health, security, and leveraging the country’s natural resources.
Since I was appointed honorary consul of Zimbabwe in Israel, there has not been a day that I have not worked for it. Getting a mandate to hang it on the wall and getting respect is not for me. I have enough certificates and honors on the walls of my office. The question is what do you do with it? What human contribution can you make with all the recognition you get?
I meet every day with endless companies , entrepreneurs and people with fine technologies who want to join the making in Zimbabwe. I get thousands of messages and I try to answer everyone patiently and efficiently. Every proposal is examined, every request for cooperation is thoroughly examined for several reasons, one to see that the proposals are indeed real and good for Zimbabwe , and secondly how the activity is funded.
What guides me in all my activities is not to take from Zimbabwe, but to give to Zimbabwe and I recommend anyone who wants to work with Zimbabwe to think the same, it will help him a lot. Therefore, the issue of project financing is a major issue that keeps sleep out of my eyes. Once we find the funding formula that fits Zimbabwe with the help of private entities, we will be hugely successful.
On the spiritual issue, I have a number of projects, which I want to set up in collaboration with the major churches in Zimbabwe that will bring the Holy Land closer to Zimbabwe and create a center of pilgrimage for internal and external tourism from all neighboring countries that will come visit Zimbabwe. This project will greatly help in creating many jobs, increasing income and religious tourism to Zimbabwe.
TK: Zimbabwe’s government is currently pushing a re-engagement agenda with the West, how are you contributing towards that, and what do you think needs to be done?
RM: As of today, Israel is a regional power in the Middle East. All leading countries in the world understand Israel’s contribution to the whole world. We can argue for hours about the Middle East conflict, but in practice, everyone knows that Israel is an island of security and economic stability in the Middle East, that is a fact.
There is no place in the world where you will not find Israeli technology. The world knows this and cherishes it. It is not self-evident that Arab countries are making peace with Israel today, they understand the consequences of that, so once Israel becomes more active with Zimbabwe, I am sure many countries will follow.
One of the most important moves in this regard, is the opening of a Zimbabwean embassy in Israel. It will certainly help Zimbabwe on an international level; because Israel is willing to help Zimbabwe tremendously if that happens, as Israel has done with other African countries.
TK: Since Mnangagwa took over in 2017, Zimbabwe’s human rights record has deteriorated markedly, how best do you think that can be corrected? And what role are you playing in that regard?
RM: The issue of human rights is a very sensitive issue and a very comparative issue. And I will explain. Throughout the world, this issue is making headlines not only in Zimbabwe, but also in Israel.
On the one hand, you can get complaints every day from certain organisations, including the United Nations about human rights violations by Israel against the Palestinians, but on the other hand, no one complains when children are used as human shields, or schools are used as weapons depots, or when there is mass murder right on the border of Israel or in other countries. Therefore, we should examine every claim and treat things responsibly and bring proof of each claim, because there is a lot of politics and interests in these claims and everyone knows it. To come and blame His Excellency the President or any other factor, is neither serious nor responsible. We should rely only on facts, otherwise it has no end.
If we go back to Zimbabwe, we need to examine the allegations of human rights violations and see if they are real or perhaps political or self-interested claims.
We also need to check what is happening in the prisons in Zimbabwe and how prisoners are treated there.
TK: Over the years, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Zimbabwe have dropped, what are some of the bottlenecks hindering investment and how best do you think Zimbabwe can improve to attract investment?
RM: Every person who invests money wants to know that his money is safe and secure and he will realise profits from his investment. It’s ABC in investments.
Zimbabwe’s ongoing economic situation makes it difficult to obtain international credit. Investors are afraid to invest even though they want to. I personally know some big investors willing to invest capital in Zimbabwe, but they ask me: “Ronny … what guarantee do we get for our money? Who assures us that they will not throw us out after we have invested?” These are legitimate questions that need to be considered in particular if we want to bring significant growth to Zimbabwe and not empty slogans.
Significant growth requires large investments, a long-term plan. Only then can Zimbabwe grow and the children of today be able to live in a better and more promising Zimbabwe.
We have significant plans for Zimbabwe that the issue holding them back from immediate implementing is funding. Investor confidence helps the economics of the country, because when there are no investors, there is no growth.
If we work together with the authorities in Zimbabwe and set goals, produce economic conferences with the participation of large investors from Israel, then I invite you to do another article with me in which we present significant results.
TK: Can you explain how co-operation between Zimbabwe and Israel can be enhanced?
RM: We work at the consulate in Israel every day to improve the relations between Israel and Zimbabwe.
We are waiting for the skies to open so that we can organise a number of diplomatic and business delegations from Israel to Zimbabwe. They will discuss the opening of the Zimbabwean embassy in Israel and the development of business cooperation between the countries.
We are taking time during this period of coronavirus to prepare all the plans and proposals for Zimbabwe in preparation for comprehensive meetings with all the bodies responsible for the various areas in Zimbabwe.
TK: How best can Zimbabwe attract investment from Israel?
RM: To me, Zimbabwe is a piece of paradise with huge human and economic potential. Zimbabwe can bloom. As I said in previous answers, we need to find the formula that will give investors guarantee for their money. This is the main issue now that we are examining.
I am sure solutions can be found because Zimbabwe has a lot to offer. I am convinced that once we find the formula, we will be able to recruit many large investors from Israel and around the world to develop the various areas in Zimbabwe. Once investors come, the world banks will enter and then we can really move the cart with all our might.
TK: Who is financing your activities as an honorary consul?
RM: As an honorary consul, you do not get money and funding from anyone; you have to fund yourself from the activities you do.
TK: What do you think about Zimbabwe’s position towards resolving the Middle East peace question? Zimbabwe has over the years expressed solidarity with Palestine.
RM: Peace in the Middle East is an important thing that is good for Israel. It is also good for the Palestinians and good for the world.
You will be surprised, but Israel also expresses solidarity with the Palestinians every day, hour by hour. Anyone who does not live in this area, here, and does not see closely and understands the problems cannot judge. Our area is a very complex area with deep-seated international and religious interests, so the conflict is not simple. I believe that on both sides there are amazing people working on finding the golden path to peace.
TK: Zimbabwe has sizeable diamond reserves, how are the two countries co-operating in that regard?
RM: Zimbabwe is indeed one of the five leading countries in the field of diamonds and Israel is known as a leading country in the field of diamond trade, with branches in almost every country in the world.
The absurdity is that there are many companies from all over the world who buy diamonds from Zimbabwe and come to Israel to sell them after adding their profit. I am working hard to open a direct and daily channel in the field of the diamond trade between Israel and Zimbabwe; this will allow many traders from Zimbabwe to earn more.
The issue of mines is also very interesting and by the way, one of the significant security measures that can be given to investors for their investment in the development of the various projects in Zimbabwe.
Currently, I have a long list of merchants waiting to see and purchase goods from Zimbabwe. I am working to regulate the process so we can start activities immediately.