Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai set aside their political differences on Thursday and issued a joint appeal for international investment to fuel their country's economic recovery at the World Economic Forum under way in the Tanzanian commercial capital of Dar es Salaam.
Mr. Mugabe, whose attendance was in doubt on Wednesday as he appeared to be more interested in an African liberation conference across town, joined MR. Tsvangirai and his Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara in telling investors that Zimbabwe offers plentiful opportunities and is a safe destination for their capital.
The three leaders also urged that U.S. and other Western sanctions targeting Mr. Mugabe and more than 200 members of his former ZANU-PF administration be lifted.
Mr. Mugabe dismissed investor misgivings over the country's indigenization and black empowerment program that proposes to shift majority ownership of large businesses to black locals over the next five years, saying: "People have said it will drive away investment. We say it won’t.”
He told reporters that foreign companies have been forthcoming despite the indigenization controversy. Mr. Mugabe said the proposed 49 percent stake to which foreigners would be limited under the act as written is ample.
Mr. Tsvangirai also assured investors that the political environment which posed a threat to investments in recent years had eased. "The perceived political risk on Zimbabwe no longer exists. If Africa's time has come for investment, then Zimbabwe cannot miss the boat. It must be part of that opportunity," he said.
Zimbabwe has held little attraction to foreign investors since 2000 when President Mugabe launched a fast-track land reform program featuring violent takeovers of white-owned commercial farms, devastating agriculture. Skeptics see the indigenization program as analogous to land reform, benefiting a politically connected elite.
Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara told the economic forum that black empowerment was necessary in Zimbabwe to avert a popular revolution in the long run."There is no stability in a country if the majority are spectators. In the long-run you are creating an environment for revolution," Mutambara told the forum.
Harare political John Makumbe told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo the government will not find it easy to convince foreign investors to overlook the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act.
Though the president and prime minister made common cause in Dar es Salaam, the indigenization program has clearly dented international investors confidence - such as it was - in the country following the installation in early 2009 of a national unity government following 2008 national elections marred by violence.
Reports Thursday said Zimplats has decided to put a proposed US$ 445 million investment in Zimbabwean operations on hold until it is clear how indigenization may affect its assets in the country.
For perspective on how indigenization will affect capital flows into the country, VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere turned to Zimbabwe Investment Authority Chairwoman Marah Hativagone and economist John Robertson, who agreed a move to shift control of big companies to Zimbabwean blacks could discourage investment.