Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister, Sibusiso Moyo, currently in New York with a high-level delegation to promote Zimbabwe as a viable country to do business, describes his country as a sleeping economic giant, about to surprise the world.
“Zimbabwe has been a secret which has been well-kept by Africa, and it is just being unveiled.”
Moyo and his delegation are in New York for the Zimbabwe Investor’s Forum, organized by a London-based group called Exotix Capital. Last month, a group in London held a similar drive called Zimdaba, aimed at promoting Zimbabwe as a viable investment destination. The phrase ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’, has been a consistent message by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his administration, since the resignation of long-time President Robert Mugabe, last November. Moyo says the call has been received positively both on the continent, and now in the West.
“So far, the investment drive has been very successful, and there is tremendous interest which has been generated so far in Zimbabwe, in fact, from all over the world. Now we are in America, creating that interest, from American financial institutions, and we are creating interest in fund managers, we are creating interest in various investors, so that they can come to Zimbabwe, which is open for business and be part and parcel of their contribution to the awakening giant, which is called Zimbabwe.”
Zimbabwe’s strained relationship with the U.S. over targeted sanctions imposed in early 2000, due to allegations of election rigging and human rights violations, has shown signs of easing over the past weeks, culminating in a visit by U.S. Senators Chris Coons and Jeff Flake, who recently introduced a bill to amend the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA), which Zimbabwe says destroyed its economy.
But Moyo says the visit by the two senators “was excellent” for opening up Zimbabwe to the world. The senators have demanded transparency in the upcoming elections among the pre-conditions for amending ZIDERA. The government says it will conduct free, credible and fair elections in the presence of international observers.
“The visit by the senators, they saw for themselves, they interacted with the rest of society, they consulted with independent personalities, who gave their own views, and finally, they also interacted with us as government, and with his Excellency President Mnangagwa, and they got a very clear direction which the country is taking, which is basically that the country has undertaken serious economic reforms, the country is undertaking serious agreed political reforms.”
On re-entering The Commonwealth of Nations, from which then President Mugabe withdrew in 2003 after being suspended a year earlier over allegations of vote rigging and human rights violations, Moyo says Zimbabwe is certain to return, and has been in close communication with his British counterpart Boris Johnson about the issue.
“It is Zimbabwe’s desire. Leadership desires that Zimbabwe rejoins the commonwealth. But there are processes which we have to follow and the most and critical process is the consultation of our own people who had made that demand in the first place, so that we don’t leave our own population behind, so that we can consult them so that they can give us authority to formally rejoin the Commonwealth.”
Closer to home, Moyo says the demand by Zimbabweans living outside the country to vote in the elections, while not possible for the 2018 elections, could be accommodated in the future. Moyo says for the upcoming elections which the Constitution demands must be held by August 22nd, it is logistically impossible for the country to accommodate the diaspora vote, so all Zimbabweans have to vote in the areas they are registered in, in Zimbabwe.
“We believe that we are going to continue working the logistics and the modalities to ensure that our diasporans must really participate in future elections.”
Despite Moyo’s optimism that investors will flock to Zimbabwe, UK-based Professor of International Relations at the University of Huddersfield, Dr. Nkululeko Sibanda, says the government of Zimbabwe has to do more than just talk to convince the world that it has changed.
“No country develops out of putting a begging bowl for the rest of the world to donate to. He must develop the conditions of the economy on the ground, the fundamentals of the economy. In terms of the elections, I think it’s a serious challenge and it would seem as though the government is trying to put lipstick on a pig and hoping that it will look like something beautiful to marry. It is not.
“If they are serious about free and fair elections, they must forthwith make available a voters’ roll that can be inspected by any member of the public, at any particular moment, either for a fee or no fee at all. Failure of that, the election is just going to be a joke and will only be believed by those who are desperate to believe the ED government.”