20 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Charamba Questions Statistics Given By ZIA

The Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) last week fell foul of Herald columnist Nathaniel Manheru, widely believed to President Robert Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba, following the publication of figures that showed that foreign investment was declining in the country, authoritative sources said.

The sources said Charamba summoned ZIA officials and gave them a rap on knuckles for the statistics. ZIA however, denied they had ever been summoned to the President's office.

The sources said Charamba, who is also Media, Information and Publicity permanent secretary, fumed that the figures, which were publicised in The Herald, showed the Zanu PF's indigenisation programme was driving investors away.

The figures showed that the country's investment approvals fell to US$930 million last year, from US$6,6 billion a year earlier, "illustrative of an abysmal" investment climate.

The authority apparently approved 172 projects between January and December last year, down from 227 projects approved in the same period in 2011.

However, the article stated that these were merely approvals and most of the projects were not running yet.

In his Saturday column in The Herald, Nathaniel Manheru, who is widely believed to be Charamba, lambasted both the newspaper's Business desk and ZIA over the article which he deemed untenable.

". . . if the story and its false figures are empty, why headline the non-story, Zim investment falls? Which investment? What has fallen? Can anything which is not there fall, given what the story itself admits to?" quipped Manheru.

"Intended or unintended, this non-story entrenches a certain perception on Zimbabwe in the reader, namely a country which is inhospitable to investments. Much worse it attributes that inhospitality to one factor: Indigenisation."

Manheru questioned why ZIA continued to give out what he termed "useless statistics".

"And when ZIA approvals don't see the light of day, who answers for that? Kasukuwere? Does this imply ZIA approves outside of the country's laws? To achieve what? A high failure rate? These are key questions which the Business Herald must raise, must probe."

ZIA Chief Executive, Richard Mubaiwa last week denied that he was summoned by Charamba over the publication of investment figures.

"Those are just statistics that we gave them; the article they [Business Herald] ran was their opinion. It's all just speculation," said Mubaiwa. "Right now I'm on leave and the officials at the [ZIA] offices would have told me if there was any issue. He [Charamba] never spoke to me about that."

Foreign investors have in the past few years been reluctant to invest in the country because of the law of indigenisation which compels foreign-owned companies to cede 51% of their shareholding to locals.

'I did not write column as Manheru'

George Charamba, who denied penning the Manheru column, yesterday said the article in question sought to question the authenticity of the statistics released by the investment authority.

"That's simply what I read in the column, who said I am Manheru?" said Charamba. "Maybe you have a very fertile imagination or you are being terribly misled [that I wrote that article as Manheru]."

He denied that he had summoned any ZIA officials stating that the authority did not fall under his purview.

Nathaniel Manheru, Zimbabwe Investment Authority

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