Zimbabwe has influenced the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) to adopt a development agenda which is in line with the government’s economic development blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Social and Economic Transformation (Zim Asset), developed from Zanu PF’s 2013 election manifesto.
By Owen Gagare/Everson Mushava in Victoria Falls
Zimbabwe is hosting the 34th Sadc Heads of State and Government Summit in Victoria Falls. The summit begins today under the theme Sadc Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Benefication and Value Addition.
Value addition and beneficiation is the fourth cluster of Zim Asset, a Zanu PF ambitious five-year development plan which requires US$27 billion to implement. The programme seeks to achieve sustainable development and social equity anchored on indigenisation, empowerment and employment creation propelled by the exploitation of human and natural resources.
Although Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, who is also chairman of the Sadc council of ministers, said the theme was collectively developed by the region. Sadc executive secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax confirmed Zimbabwe had proposed the theme.
Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ambassador Joey Bimha also confirmed Zimbabwe had developed the theme, which he said was in line with the Sadc developmental goals.
“You choose an element of the Sadc development agenda and that is what Zimbabwe did,” he told The Standard.
Addressing a press conference on the outcome of a Sadc council of ministers meeting held on Friday, Mumbengegwi justified the theme saying it was carefully selected and was relevant to the entire region.
“The theme was carefully selected in close consultations with the secretariat in line with their expertise and expectations,” said Mumbengegwi.
“…We all know that industrialisation is the bedrock of economic development. We can’t improve the quality of life of our people and our nations without paying attention to the whole process of industrialisation, which also means adding value to our raw materials…At the moment 92% of our resources are being exported raw.”
He cited the example of Zimbabwean tobacco which he said is getting only 10% of its value whereas if it was value added, Zimbabwe would benefit tenfold.
Some critics, including former Sadc executive secretary Dr Simba Makoni, have castigated Mugabe and the Zimbabwean government for imprinting Zanu PF values on the theme of the summit. Makoni headed the Sadc secretariat between 1984 and 1994.
He said during his tenure Sadc themes were not determined by the incoming chairman and their year in office but were drawn from a broad strategy of the organisation.
“I don’t even believe this theme we are giving to this summit is the consensual theme of the collective; this is a unilateral decision, because we have a particular message we want to convey, particularly to the international community and our regional peers, that the battlefront is on natural resources, is on resource sovereignty, is on resource nationalism,” said Makoni.
Mumbengegwi said as a way to ensure local beneficiation and value addition in the mining sector, Zimbabwe had come up with a law which stipulated that 51% of shares should be in the hands of indigenous persons.
He however said Zimbabwe did not want to impose the policy in the region, hence the issue would be discussed at the summit to find a regional response.
“All I can give is the Zimbabwe approach. I am not imposing it on Sadc after discovering [that foreign companies were not keen to value] we have legislated an arrangement where in the mining industry at least 51% of shareholding must be held by Zimbabweans so that Zimbabwe has a final say in the running of mining companies in order to address these contradictions,” he said.
“In the absence of such a law we have to ask the companies involved to invest in the beneficiation of the mineral. It is a challenge and cannot be solved overnight, but it is what we must address. With determination and concerted effort it can be done. That is why it is on the agenda of the summit.”