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Zimbabwe PM Tsvangirai Pitches Opportunities to Skeptical US Investors

Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said the Zimbabwean prime minister is confident he can still convince investors to do business with Harare despite the many economic and political uncertainties

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was in Chicago on Thursday trying to convince US investors to put their money to work in Zimbabwe despite policy confusion in his unity government and the risks seen in an indigenization or black empowerment drive.

Mr. Tsvangirai’s formation of the Movement for Democratic Change has clashed with President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF on how best to give Zimbabweans a stake in the country’s resources and industrial base. But for the moment the former ruling party is in the indigenization driver's seat pressing mines and banks for a 51% black stake.

Many observers believe, as Mr. Tsvangirai has charged, that indigenization on its current trajectory is likely to turn into an asset grab by top ZANU-PF politicians.

The prospect of elections next year is another factor discouraging capital inflows, given the violence and disruption of the national economy seen in the 2008 elections.

Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said the prime minister is confident he can still convince investors to do business with Harare. But economist Prosper Chitambara said Tsvangirai has his work cut out for him given the many uncertainties.

Meanwhile, inflation for the 12 months through August accelerated to 3.5% from 3.3% in July on higher transport and school costs, the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency said. Some economists pointed to the re-imposition of import duties on maize meal, cooking oil and some other staple foodstuffs, as a key factor propelling prices higher.

But economist John Robertson told VOA that the recent steep decline in the euro-linked South African rand against the US dollar will tend to keep prices under control.

Elsewhere, the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism said the long running pilot strike at Air Zimbabwe has resulted in the cancellation of 80 percent of tourist bookings for Victoria Falls, among other traditional Zimbabwean tourist destinations.

The state-run Herald newspaper quoted Air Zimbabwe Acting Chief Executive Innocent Mavhunga as saying the airline intended to resume flights Wednesday but could not do so because it was unable to secure funding to settle back pilot wages and other debts.

Victoria Falls Mayor Nkosilathi Jiyane told reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga that the local city council has noted a steep decline in tourist traffic in the Zambezi River town.