New Zimbabwe (London)

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Takes Desperate Investment Appeals to ZITF

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, desperate for foreign direct investment, on Friday took the surprise softening of his government's indigenisation approach to ZITF where he repeated appeals to foreign investors to come and set up businesses in his country.

Speaking while officially opening the annual trade showcase in Bulawayo, Mugabe was at pains to assure cautious investors his government's aggressive empowerment policies were not ill-intentioned.

Instead, Mugabe said, Zimbabwe's indigenisation policy had been misinterpreted.

"As originally set out, it (indigenisation) is meant to empower and integrate the majority of our people into the mainstream economy. The policy aims at achieving inclusive growth, sustainable development and social equity," Mugabe said.

"There is no expropriation or nationalisation of shares held by non-indigenous persons in companies, as some of our detractors would want the world to believe. Rather, any equity that an indigenous person takes up will be disposed of at fair value.

"With this clarification, let me take this opportunity to invite potential investors to come and do business in Zimbabwe in which there is huge potential for joint venture partnerships between investors, manufacturers, industrialist and the public sector. We want investment from abroad."

Mugabe's appeals were a follow-up to his address during the independence day celebrations over a week ago where he said Zimbabwe's 51-49 ownership ratio was flexible.

His remarks are a complete summersault from past comments by his government which has repeatedly insisted on the seizure of the mandatory 51 percent equity from foreign firms operating in the country.

Zimbabwe's indigenisation policies have seen the flight investment in a country which enjoyed economic prosperity during the years following independence in 1980.

Critics say this was caused by the veteran leader's populist policies when faced with electoral defeat as well as knee-jerk reactions to crises.

Although China has the highest number of foreign exhibitors to this year's trade fair, recent events have shown a burning desire by Zimbabwe to shift from its overreliance on Chinese support for the broader world.

China offered Mugabe's administration a shoulder to lean on after the latter's fall out with erstwhile partners in Europe at the turn of the century.

In his Friday address, Mugabe expressed surprise and worry on why his government has been singled out for US and Western imposed sanctions.

"I don't understand why the United States, of all democratic countries, should choose to single our country out for sanctions," he said.

"We can only say we are singled out because of the policies we have pursued that benefited our people, especially land reform."

Mugabe continued, "God has given us control and ownership over our natural resources, so who are we to disobey the command of the Almighty. That is what the Americans don't understand; Zimbabweans have the right to their resources," he said.

"There is no nationalisation of companies owned by non-indigenise people in Zimbabwe. We have never done that since independence, we have never retaliated even after the imposition of sanctions on us. What we are doing is merely ensuring that local people are empowered."

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