Former finance minister Tendai Biti has said president Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured in Davos, Switzerland) on Wednesday wasted an opportunity to clearly present Zimbabwe to the world by dodging crucial issues that should have been cleared years ago.
Mnangagwa addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday where he was interrogated over several issues including the contentious land question.
Biti argued that Mnangagwa could have used the chance to show the world how sincere he was in his efforts to revive the country’s economy. Biti said by dodging the questions, he came across as someone with something to hide.
“He fudged the Gukurahundi issue which even he himself knew is a matter of interest both to Zimbabwe and the world.
Addressing well that issue could have put him in a better standing. He dodged whether he still wanted white farmers or not.
He couldn’t answer clearly whether he wanted international observers or not. All these issues need clear articulation. Making a presentation at Davos, however, does not cure the economy which is in shambles,” he said
Biti said the presentation was a continuation of former president Robert Mugabe’s terrain, adding that he had to walk the talk.
“Mnangagwa must walk the talk. How can we talk about investments when foreigners can’t take a cent out of the country and when there is no ease of doing business?” he said.
Economist John Robertson concurred with Biti, pointing out that Mnangagwa’s presentation did not live up to the task he went to Davos for.
“I’m disappointed in the paper he carried to Davos. Whoever prepared that paper for him did not put much effort. It does not have much information that will lure investors into the country. Overall, he made a good impression but he could have done more on mining, agriculture and tourism. He was also given little space. People will be inquiring about inflation but he did not have that. It’s not enough to draw expertise from all over the world,” he said.
Robertson said banks should be the ones to fund command agriculture to make it a long-term project which will cater to the country’s food needs.
Mnangagwa told delegates that Zimbabwe is now able to produce surplus grain regardless of drought, backed by the command agriculture scheme.
Robertson said Mnangagwa needed to realise that the country cannot be sustained on contract farming but needs long-term financing and strong back-up.
“Mnangagwa still feels the country can do well with contract farming. Farming is a big business that requires more commitment and big investments especially funding from banks not to rely on government funding as is happening now. We have an uncertain climate we need back-up and it costs money and long-term commitment,” he said.
However, local economist Tapiwa Mashakada, who is also MDC-T Hatfield MP and former investment and economic planning minister, commended Mnangagwa for striking the right cord in Davos.
“The president made very positive remarks about Zimbabwe’s economic prospects and he addressed investor concerns about security of investments. This is as it should be and it’s good for Zimbabwe to shed off its pariah status,” he said.
Mnangagwa has said there shall be no racial discrimination when it comes to land ownership under the new administration in Zimbabwe but government will ensure that non-commercial farmers are capacitated to enhance economic growth through agriculture.
Zimbabwe has been undergoing economic turmoil for the past two decades which has been characterised by a crippling liquidity crunch, severe cash shortage, high unemployment and investor flight.
“As the new administration we don’t think along racial lines. That’s a philosophy of the past. Farmers are farmers. Those commercial farmers who happily integrated into our systems by agreeing to have their farms downsized according to ecological regions have remained, we value their skills and the non-commercial farmers need to be trained and capacitated. It is a deliberate policy we are making,” he said.
Mnangagwa said he has no doubt that with the model of agriculture introduced, the country will be self-sustaining in terms of food production and even record a surplus whether there is drought or not as the country has been able to create a strong water body base.
On the key issue of indigenisation, Mnangagwa reiterated that all other sectors are now open for negotiation except for the two key areas of platinum and diamond mining.
Last week, the government unveiled a post-election investment promotion blueprint anchored on the protection of investment and property rights as the capital-starved southern African nation pushes for re-engagement with the international community.
He also told the delegates that the Gukurahundi issue was one which the government of the day should apologise for.
Mnangagwa admitted that the economy is in tatters because of bad decisions that were made in the past.
While government would adopt and implement consistent and transparent policies that render a competitive and preferred investment destination, the reforms undertaken will seek to improve Zimbabwe as a competitive investment destination.