…what they said at Crisis Coalition, Murra public debate
On Wednesday, May 23 2018, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) in conjunction with Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Association (Murra) held a public debate at Charles Austin Theatre.
The debate sought to probe what the mantra, 'Zimbabwe is open for business' meant to citizens and outsiders, how relevant it is and of what consequence is it to the people.
The dialogue had Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA) area president Tavengwa Mazhambe, Zanu PF representative Tafadzwa Mugwadi, MDC-T's Simon Mupindu and Dr Fidelis Duri from Great Zimbabwe University (GZU).
Below is a synopsis of the panellists' contribution to the debate.
Mazhambe: He argued that the Zimbabwe is open for business mantra was not fair for the people in the informal sector.
"The mantra is not fair to us, it seems as if the president is targeting the foreigners only and we do not know where we fit in as the informal traders in Zimbabwe. They are concerned about foreign direct investment but they have never consulted us to hear our views on the matter. There is no inclusivity in the whole game. We constitute 94 percent of traders in Zimbabwe but they forgot about us. This is evidenced by the cat and mouse games we play with the police and municipal police but they say we have to do business."
Mazhambe went on to talk about the long and bureaucratic procedures one has to go through to register a company. He said there was too much red tape which has the effect of hindering investments both by local and foreigners.
"It serves no good purposes to us and foreign investors if there are still endless bureaucratic procedures to follow when registering a business. As long as these remain in place, there is no investment to talk about."
Mugwadi: He claimed the agenda was all about rescuing Zimbabwe from the isolation which the previous government had put it for the past 18 years, saying President Mnangagwa had tried to involve everyone in the process.
"The President is trying to reach everyone in this country who matter in the process. Recently, he met with women and if there is any group which he has not consulted, I am sure he will. This is not all about foreigners only. Everybody will appreciate what is being done when results begin to be evident.
"The President's aim is to attract investors for we cannot live without other countries. We want investors so that we will be able to open up industries to create jobs and actualise our goal for radical socio-economic transformation. Mugabe's government promised 2.2 million jobs and the new dispensation will fulfil that when industries are opened."
Mugwadi also called for everyone to support the policy and said it was unfortunate that some people were against it and would go to other countries to call for punitive measures against the country. He rebuked those who regard Mnangagwa's government as illegal one when they too contributed to the removal of the previous government.
"If I am to borrow a line from the legendary Julius Malema, I would say, 'they are here Mr President, those who were marching with us to remove Mugabe but now they are saying your government is an illegal government. Give us a sign so that we know how to deal with them."'
Mupindu: He argued that it was difficult for investors to trust the Zimbabwean government, saying there was no way investors could be wooed by the Zimbabwe is open for business mantra since anybody would be able to tell if indeed the country became open for business. He said creating a conducive environment where property rights and security are norms would do more to market the country than to run around talking cheap.
"Kana musikana asvika pazera rekuroorwa akatanga kuenda kudzimba dzine vakomana achiti ndakura ndirooreiwo, vabereki vevekomana vanoti kuvana vavo siyanai naye uyu haana kukwana. There is need to restore investor confidence by removing corrupt ministers and remove bureaucratic laws and once that is done, investors will come on their own. What is being done is a sign of desperation by a failed government."
He said the ruling Zanu PF was good at crafting very good laws but they lack implementation as evidenced by the continuous recycling of old ministers who have nothing new to offer.
"They are very good at lip servicing. The Zimbabwe is open for business mantra is nothing but one of their fake promises to blindfold people. Some laws are applied in a discriminatory manner and nepotism is rife. All their policies are just designed to benefit themselves and just a select few."
Dr Duri: He said the policy was a step in the right direction because Zimbabwe was and is still closed from within and not from without. He said President Mnangagwa had a lot to do before the country becomes really open.
He said while the President was going right, others were going left, giving Terrence Mukupe and Josaya Hungwe as bad examples who were doing a disservice to the President by insinuating that Zanu PF will not handover power even when defeated in elections.
"The commitment displayed by the President to open up Zimbabwe for business, is therefore very welcome news. It means an open economy which is warming up to both local and foreign investors to obvious benefit of Zimbabweans through employment opportunities.
There are, however, burning questions that come to mind: What is business? Was Zimbabwe not doing any business before? If not, then why were we always being told that the look east policy was bearing fruit?
Dr Duri also said the present government should come clean for the sake of investment unless it is only interested in safeguarding the Mugabe legacy (Mugabeism).
He said Zimbabwe made many political blunders like the chaotic implementation of the land reform programme and withdrawal from the Commonwealth. This, he said, had unnecessarily burdened the current government with the responsibility of undoing the damage caused by Mugabe.
"Though everyone has a role to play in our current circumstances, I place the burden on the President because he was part of the past. He is the President and he is the one who came with the initiative but he has a lot of things he has to do to put his house in order." local