Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was recently in China where he met top government and the ruling Communist Party officials.
Some believe the trip was meant to assure the Chinese government that their economic interests in Zimbabwe were safe under his care, should he succeed President Robert Mugabe.
On arrival back home from China Mnangagwa who is now in Belarus announced that he would be proceeding to Europe “to attract huge companies to come and invest” in Zimbabwe. No doubt, his trip to Europe is more important given the frosty relations between Zimbabwe and the West. Thus the European tour is double edged. It is meant to thaw relations and it is hoped it will attract both Official Development Assistance and Foreign Direct Investment to Zimbabwe.
This is remarkable as Zimbabwe needs more friends than enemies. It is equally refreshing that Mnangagwa appears to be departing from the Zanu PF prepared script to a new path of objective engagement with both friends and foes. Indeed, he must be commended for such courage.
Of course Europeans are going to grill him about Zimbabwe’s Indigenisation law.
But is there something Zimbabweans need to be wary of when Mnangagwa negotiates deals on behalf of the Zimbabwean government/people.
A few years back, Vice-President Mnangagwa, then Defence minister, was instrumental in facilitating the entry of Anjin Investments in Zimbabwe’s multi-billion dollar Marange diamond fields. Mnangagwa was seen flanking President Mugabe during the signing ceremony.
An official, believed to be from Chinese Defence forces, was also seen in the picture. The Minister of Mines and Mining Development was nowhere to be seen during the colourful ceremony.
As it turned out, this was an awful deal for Zimbabwe as Anjin Investment never remitted any penny to treasury. “I have got a big bone to chew with all the mines, but particularly with Anjin . . .We are not getting anything from Anjin. I am not that much worried about the other companies like Mbada and Marange because those are partly owned by Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation [ZMDC] and so we are getting something from them,” said Tendai Biti, Finance minister during Zimbabwe’s short-lived inclusive government (2009-2013).
To ensure the company was shielded from accountability, a $98 million loan was signed between Zimbabwe and China for the construction of a Defence College in Harare. According to the agreement, “the goods, technologies and services purchased by using the proceeds of the facility shall be purchased from China preferentially, and also from Zimbabwe where this will benefit the project and end user.”
There was no independent valuation of the diamonds mined at Anjin. This means the country could have lost billions of dollars while repaying a $98 million loan.
When it became apparent that Anjin was defaulting on its statutory obligations, the then Defence minister remained mum. This means Anjin’s failure to remit had a blessing from senior government officials or else they should have revoked its operating licence.
If the Anjin deal was good for VP Mnangagwa, then we must prepare for worse deals from his tour of Europe and China. Further, if VP Mnangagwa saw nothing wrong with the Anjin deal then we are led to two conclusions about his negotiating skills. Either he is a bad negotiator who does not know what is good for his country, or he negotiates for the elites.
There is also a real danger that he could be negotiating more military deals to brighten his chances of ultimately taking over power from Mugabe when he retires or should he leave office due to natural causes.
This calls for Zimbabweans to closely monitor the VP and ensure he does not repeat another “Anjin” or more of them. Zimbabwe is endowed with mineral wealth and vast business opportunities.
But the country needs to create a conducive and predictable investment climate and engage business partners with high ethical standards. More so, the country needs investment projects that are negotiated transparently, with wide consultations with all stakeholders, including communities to be affected by such investments.
Otherwise I wish the VP every success in his tour of Europe.