HomeBusinessDo we grasp of the phrase, ‘Zim open for business’?

Do we grasp of the phrase, ‘Zim open for business’?

My stomach churned as I watched the video, of Home Affairs minister and former Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu causing a ruckus in Parliament last Thursday when he refused to answer questions about the alleged missing $15 billion of diamond revenue during his tenure at the Mines ministry.

Here was an MP with the audacity to show defiance, contempt and disrespect to a sub-organ of Parliament, the Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy (PCME). It was shockingly shameless, as it was unbelievably ungracious.

People marched for real change in November 2017

Many marched for genuine change in November 2017.

We walked from Highfield township to the central business district side by side with young people who are desperate, hungry and angry.

The atmosphere was characterised by thrilling excitement.

It was electric. Optimism and expectation were in the air.

There was hopefulness for a better season, for a new order that would change the fortunes of both country and folk.

We could almost touch it.

The arrogance displayed Mpofu shows that as things appear like they are changing, they have remained the same.

Personally, the hope that I had, that the new dispensation was going to deliver back to the nation, at least double old, the 27 years that was squandered by the previous order, simply vanished.

How could I have been this foolhardy to trust those that stand accused, by the court of public opinion, blamed to have looted Zimbabwe to ruins, now being the champions of change that will bring us prosperity?

Respect for others start with respect for self

Watching that video reminded me of American Poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) stating, “There are other measures of self-respect for a man, than the number of clean shirts he puts on every day.”

But more apt is the quote by Irish Novelist, Laurence Sterne (1713-1768), when he suggested that, “Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.”

No one is above the rule of law

Power is divided within the government of Zimbabwe in three locations namely: the Executive (the Presidency and Cabinet), the Legislature (Parliament), and Judiciary (the courts).

These three organs of power operate independently, but in concert, to uphold the Constitution, the supreme law of Zimbabwe.

No one single entity or person is above this law.

By deliberately disrespecting parliamentary processes, to which he swore allegiance, the Mpofu was sending a message that he is untouchable, like in the previous order and above the law.

As members of the citizenry, it is none of our business that there are personal vendettas between Mpofu and chairperson of the portfolio committee on mines Themba Mliswa.

Questions were tabled and answers were expected in line with accountability to Parliament.

There were allegations from Mpofu that MP Mliswa was conflicted. These allegations ought to have been stated in writing, before the hearing and submitted to the Speaker of Parliament.

We all have wisdom in hindsight.

The ideal situation should have been for the minister to politely excuse himself from the meeting for reasons he was going to provide later, in writing, through the Speaker of Parliament and then proceed to submit the allegations through the right channels. The dramatic exchange and commotion that ensued was unnecessary.

What does Zimbabwe is now open for business really mean?

Not so long ago on January 18 2018 President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched the country’s investment policy statement entitled, Investment Guidelines and Opportunities in Zimbabwe (Investment Guidelines).

Soon after the launch, on January 24 2018 he announced to delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos that “Zimbabwe is now open for business”.

Being open for business is a portrayal and a statement of commitment that Zimbabwe is now welcoming investors from around the world to participate in various sectors of the economy under an enabling environment.

But the invitation to transact based on well drafted investment guidelines are an insufficient condition to lure desired investors.

The conduct of those in our leadership, past and present, is instructive.

The behaviour of Mpofu in Parliament, disrespecting the Legislature where he is supposed to be serving, at the pleasure of his constituency and the nation at large, with honour and dignity is unfortunately now an inconvenient laceration on the new order.

The citizenry, together with the global investing public are watching and taking notes.

The testimony of Lovemore Kurotwi at the same hearing, testimony which still needs to be tested, is revealing.

Here is a country claiming to be “open for business” when it is failing to account for over $15 billion of its own proceeds.

We do not need to be begging for foreign direct investment (FDI).

Mining is one of the bedrocks of our economy. We require full disclosure on previous mining activities and where crimes were committed, the law must take its course.

For current activities, we must utilise a mixed approach where we beneficiate where we can, export raw product where we cannot and reinvest the mining proceeds in our own economy.

FDI is discerning and mobile. Like flowing water, FDI ultimately follows the path of least resistance.

Zimbabwe is competing with more desirable destinations across the globe.

White-washing the investment pitch by announcing the re-integration of white commercial farmers in order to boost agricultural productivity will get Zimbabwean whites back on the land but will not be enough of a sweetener to get the kind of investment Zimbabwe requires right now.

Insisting that there would be no immunity for members of the previous administration headed by former president Robert Mugabe, when many are still holding top positions in government serves to unmask our half-hearted stance towards attracting FDI.

Tax incentives no matter how attractive, are considered as a package with other factors such as ease of doing business, labour laws, governance issues, rule of law, infrastructure, political stability etcetera.

Do we even understand what is at stake?

In a recent Facebook rant on January 25 2018, a US-based tech innovator and disruptive thinker, Freeman Chari, declared that, “…it will take decades for Zimbabwe to have a functional and prosperous economy if you give this government a chance.”

He insisted, “Zimbabwe is rich only if taken in isolation.

We are poor.”

Poor, I gasped! This is a rebuttable presumption, I thought to myself.

My first instinct was to challenge him based on the fact that he was a fatalist-peddling pessimist.

I restrained myself and listened. Chari continued to argue that, on the agricultural front, tobacco was a dying industry and yet we continue to escalate our commitment to this sector. On agriculture, he said, “…We are trying to compete with a world that is comfortable eating GMOs with only 0,001% of American households caring if their chicken is free range or GMO.

Our tomatoes have a 3-4 days shelf life and genetically engineered ones in Wal-Mart have a 2-week shelf life.”

On the mining front, Chari insisted, “…Ziscosteel will never be able to compete globally with Chinese steel delivered to your door step at a fraction of the price.”

He further argued that, “precious minerals without the infrastructure nor the leverage to add value to them” would not trigger the growth we are desirous of.

The tirade ended by him stating that, “unless drastic, efficient and tech intensive processes are adopted, which need huge investment upfront, there is no hope.”

Chari’s observations underscore the same sentiments I have written about before in this column.

Zimbabwe started its decline 27 years ago.

This decline heightened during the last 17 years. What this means is, the business we are calling for now when we say, “Zimbabwe is open for business” is in fact, business unusual.

Narrow-mindedness, short-sightedness and myopic attitudes will only make us linger longer in a subsistence economy.

We need champions with a deeper comprehension of the modern world, foresight and unselfishness to champion our renaissance to the Promised Land.

Looting and corruption on a grand scale must be eliminated.

The judiciary must not be compromised otherwise the corrupt will not be convicted.

The bloated army and civil service must be reduced.

The current cabinet must be changed because it is a reflection of the old cabinet and therefore cannot be trusted to spearhead the change processes required.

The police service must be restrained and not go about unexpectedly shooting innocent civilians like they did last Thursday.

The infrastructure must be maintained and rebuilt.

Zimbabwe Inc. needs a viable and sustainable monetary system with its own currency that is readily available and convertible with other currencies.

The labour laws ought to be revamped.

Most importantly, there has to be a deeper comprehension of the strategic direction of the economy and how we are going to achieve prosperity.

So when we say, Zimbabwe is now open for business, we must understand that both the tangibles and intangibles matter and have equal weight.

That which appeals to the foreign investor must first appeal to the local investor too.

The local investor is key during this transformation.

Without the requisite collective mental aptitude, commitment and political will to deal with the red herring issues and blind spots, Zimbabwe could very well be headed south, towards further ruin.

 Gloria Ndoro-Mkombachoto is an entrepreneur and a regional enterprise development consultant. Her experience spans a period of over 25 years. She can be contacted at totemshumba@gmail.com

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