Zimbabwe: Government Its Own Worst Enemy

editorial

The past few months have seen a strident debate over how best to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to the country so the people as a whole can benefit. As it stands, Zimbabwe is suffering an investment drought that is not shared by its neighbours.

That would indicate we are doing something wrong and they are getting it right. Part of the debate is taking place within Zanu PF where there is a growing difference of opinion over qualifications for investors and percentages of businesses to be held.

Another dimension to this debate was manifest in recent weeks where Zanu PF has been inviting its followers to grab land in the Save Conservancy, one of the most precious resources in the country.

The land-grabs have affected operations of huge companies such as Hulett Tongaat cultivating vast sugarcane estates in the Lowveld. Other land invaders have engaged in systematic poaching that will not only damage foreign investment in Zimbabwe, but also our reputation for professional wildlife management.

Rhinos, for instance, were relocated to the Lowveld to protect them from poaching by Zambia-based poachers in the Zambezi Valley. The exercise worked until Zanu PF needed an election victory last year. Other victims have been foreigners investing in the country under Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (Bippas).

Since the chaotic land reform programme, which has severely dented the country's image, there has been no new investment in the Lowveld or indeed the country as a whole, save for the troubled Essar deal.

Foreigners feel they have been a victim of theft and quickly learn that what they put in gets taken out by partisan predators. Investors from Europe, like Germans, have been dispossessed of their property by a regime that doesn't care about the consequences.

They are then surprised when the EU or US find better places to put their money. Mauritius, whose nationals have been victims of seizure on the sugarcane estates in the Lowveld, has laid down a red carpet for those who wish to transfer their assets back home.

Here is a good example of why Zimbabwe is shunned. Patrick Chinamasa's recent statement in parliament that Bippas will not get in the way of Zanu PF's land seizures is the last thing well-wishers want to hear.

Much of the ruling party's injuries are self-inflicted. Ostrich breeding is one example of where ambitious plans have been hijacked -- in that case by Indonesians. Some years ago, Malaysian investors also saw their plans go up in smoke.

All in all, there does not seem to be the sea change the government needs to distance it from the ancien regime. Instead there has been an intensification of the bad behaviour that led to Zimbabwe's isolation -- it is amazing, isn't it?

All around us are successful economies attracting investment. In Zimbabwe we are heading in the opposite direction.

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