Zimbabwe not open for business

Chinas Foreign Minister Wangi Yi, left, greets Zimbabwe's Foreign minister Sibusiso Moyo after a joint press conference in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sunday, Jan, 12, 2020. Wangi Yi is in Zimbabwe as part of a five nation tour of Africa that seeks to promote the Asian economic and political interests on the continent. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Athenian political philosopher Plato once said that “wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something”.

Another common expression goes: With friends like that, who needs enemies?

The nation was this week reminded of Plato’s remarks when an excited government official tore diplomatic etiquette after a visit by a Chinese senior official.

Chinese Foreign minister Wang Yi was in town where he sang from Zimbabwe’s favourite hymn: sanctions must go.

In the midst of this support from an “all-weather friend”, Deputy Information minister Energy Mutodi thought of returning the favour.

Posting on microblogging site, Twitter, Mutodi said Zimbabwe will prioritise Chinese ahead of any western countries.

“The historic visit to Zimbabwe by the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Mr Wang Yi is a slap in the face of Britain, US and the EU who have remained hostile.

We will in return, prioritise Chinese business interests ahead of any Western country,” he tweeted.

For starters, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been on a crusade to lure foreign direct investment under the Zimbabwe is open for business mantra.

This has seen the country’s No.1 diplomat attending conferences and events such as the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland to pitch a case on Zimbabwe.

Last year, Mnangagwa attended a conference organised by Japan for Africa (TICADII), was in Sochi, Russia, for the Russia-Africa summit and in Mozambique for the 12 edition of the US-Africa Business Summit.

A number of reforms have been taken to make Zimbabwe investor friendly including the proposed scrapping of the 51:49% threshold on diamond and platinum and the creation of Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency, a one-stop shop for investors.

Zimbabwe’s all-weather lending institution, the African Export and Import Bank, has come up with fund to guarantee investments—from all over— into Zimbabwe to drive foreign direct investment.

In 2018, Zimbabwe and Afreximbank signed a memorandum of agreement for a facility valued at US$1.5bn to provide guarantees to foreign investors that their investments are safe under the Zim Open initiative.

While Mnangagwa is the custodian of Zimbabwe’s foreign policy, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo have been the main protagonists in implementing the reengagement policy.

Ncube wants Zimbabwe to restore relations with multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank—all of which are influenced by Washington which has the largest shareholding.

Moyo has been cementing cooperation with allies such as China, Russia and many other countries.

All these moves are meant to establish rapprochement between Zimbabwe and the world.

The world is now a global village and it is recommended that investment-starved countries like Zimbabwe have to be in good books with everyone.

Giving preference to Chinese companies only is not only ill-informed by an affront to non-discrimination, one of the World Trade Organisation principles.

It means the re-engagement efforts are a waste of resources. As Zimbabwe’s top diplomat, Mnangagwa has to rebut remarks by his deputy minister. In the absence of that, it means Zimbabwe is not open for business.