1 June 2017

Zimbabwe: Not Time for Looting

editorial

Last week, we reported that ruling party bigwigs were planning to grab commercial land around the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam in Masvingo, which was commissioned by President Robert Mugabe in May.

The Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA), which should normally be responsible with promotion of foreign investments, has been sidelined and replaced by a ZANU-PF committee, chaired by the ruling party's Gutu Central legislator and Politburo member, Lovemore Matuke.

Matuke has already indicated that ZIA will have no role in this project: "We have leaders at the top (of the party) who recommend people we can work with. We are a bit on the technical side."

This is certainly worrying.

The US$300 million, 1,8 billion mega-litre Tokwe-Mukosi Dam, the largest in-land lake in the country, is seen changing the face of the drought-prone Chivi District and beyond by opening new business frontiers that would uplift surrounding communities. Tokwe-Mukosi is expected to result in the development of five irrigation schemes: Tokwane North, Tokwane South, Hippo Valley, Runde South and Matibi II. Matibi II will be located south of Runde River, which is expected to become the largest small-scale irrigation development in Zimbabwe.

Additionally, the dam will support tourism enterprises such as hotels, lodges, restaurants and recreational activities such as boating, rowing, fishing and canoeing, among many others.

These projects, apparently, should benefit the poor, particularly those living within and around the Tokwe-Mukosi area as well as downstream.

The plan, therefore, that ruling party bigwigs and their cronies want to muscle out communities and allocate these opportunities to themselves is both mean and disgusting.

We fear that folks settled in areas near the dam may be evicted to make way for politicians and their cronies.

The cash outlays for most of the business projects expected to emanate from this project are huge and far beyond reach of many in this liquidity-strapped economy. Our politicians are aware of this, and are planning to rope in foreign investors in partnerships that will restrict the foreign shareholders to non-controlling stakes in line with the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.

This selfish thinking will not help attract the much-needed foreign capital and will only dissuade interested investors from investing in enterprises around this project. Our political class has shown a penchant for expropriation and disdain for the rule of law. Tokwe-Mukosi projects should benefit every Zimbabwean and government should resist the temptation to approach this in a partisan manner.

If this is approached in a professional and non-partisan manner, the benefits to the economy would be significant. Jobs will be created; new money will come into the country from foreign investors; and the economy will grow.

Already, we know Angolan President, Eduardo dos Santos' billionaire daughter, Isabel, has shown interest in projects to be supported by the dam.

Many others foreign investors have also made enquiries.

Our politicians have run down businesses and are failing to make an impact on farms expropriated from white farmers under the country's land reform programme. This has ruined the economy and turned the country into a pariah State.

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