The two-day Southern African Political Economy Series (SAPES) Trust and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) conference on Zimbabwe ended in Harare on Tuesday with participants urging President Robert Mugabe’s government to up its game in their efforts to re-engage the international community and revive the country’s ailing economy.
The meeting held under the theme, “Zimbabwe going forward - Consolidating the Democratization Process and Reinforcing Re-engagement with the Global Community”, ended with participants calling on Harare to democratically run the country, respect the rule of law and enact clear policies that encourage and protect investors, among others.
Participants resolved that the government should put more effort in the re-engagement process as it seeks to rejoin the international community.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa on Monday told conference delegates that Harare is ready to fully re-engage the international community, adding the West should do its part by removing the so-called targeted measures imposed against President Mugabe and members of his inner circle for allegedly rigging elections, not respecting people’s rights and related issues.
Delegates agreed that Zimbabwe is an economic and regional giant that is being weighed down by bad governance and unclear policies like the indigenization laws they said should be amended to ease investor worries.
Participants, who were drawn from the government, private sector, civil society and the international community, also agreed Harare should sincerely deal with corruption that they agreed was eating away the country’s social fabric as some people are living in luxury at the expense of the ordinary poor.
Earlier on, economics lecturer Ashok Chakravarti of the University of Zimbabwe urged the government to give title deeds to newly resettled farmers saying this would allow them to use the pieces of land as collateral to access loans from banks.
This, he said, would positively impact on Zimbabwe’s economic growth as the new farmers would be utilizing the land that was parceled out to them under the country’s fast-track land reforms.
Several economists have blamed the country’s economic meltdown on those agrarian reforms.
Chakravarti also urged authorities to consider adopting the South African Rand under a monetary union saying the use of the US Dollar is costly to the country.
Chakravarti argued that the South African rand was depreciating against the US currency yet South Africa remains Harare’s major trading partner.
But deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Khupukile Mlambo, ruled out the adoption of the rand and the return of the Zimbabwe dollar saying investors need time to understand financial systems in Zimbabwe before they can start investing in the country.
Former Zimbabwe Country Manager of the World Bank, Mungai Lenneiye, also told the conference that Harare should spruce up its image first before investors can start investing in the southern African nation.
Disputed elections and alleged violation of human rights by President Mugabe’s government continue to be cited as reasons by the international community for its reluctance to re-engage Harare.
Speaking at the same conference, representatives of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions urged the authorities to formulate a law that makes it mandatory for the government to regularly meet with labor and business under the tripartite negotiating forum as unions seek the restoration of a social contract between the state and its partners.
ZCTU third vice president, Gift Peter Mutasa, said the enactment of the law would ensure that labour and business concerns are catered for when authorities craft policies.
Discussions between government, business and labor under the Tri-partite Negotiating Forum stalled in 2010 following the establishment of the National Incomes and Pricing Commission.
Responding, Deputy Labour Minister, Tongai Muzenda, said the government was already in the process of crafting the law that he said should be passed by parliament before year-end.
But chairman of the Association of Southern African Development Community Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Oswell Binha, said legislating the discussions would give the government an unfair advantage over its partners.
Recommendations from the two-day conference will be forwarded to the government for implementation with follow-ups being made to ensure Zimbabwe’s economy is revived with frosty relations between the West and Harare being thawed.