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Press release on the Future Summit on Zimbabwe

Press release on the Future Summit on Zimbabwe

16 September 2010

Zimbabwe seeking economic recovery, reconciliation – Tsvangirai  

Johannesburg, 16 September 2010 – Zimbabwe is making progress on its road towards recovery from a decade-long economic collapse, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said on Thursday at “The Future of Zimbabwe Summit” hosted by The Economist. 

Zimbabwe’s economy was shattered in the past decade as a result of President Robert Mugabe’s disastrous land reform programme that laid to waste productive farms and generated the world’s worst peacetime inflation rates for several decades. Tsvangirai, who won the 2008 election, was compelled to form a unity government with Mugabe last year. Since the formation of a powersharing deal, and the dollarisation of the economy, the country has shown tentative signs of economic recovery. 

While conceding the pace of progress has been slow and limited, Tsvangirai said the past 18 months had witnessed steps forward in the implementation of political and economic reforms. Zimbabwe has recorded moderate economic growth over the past two years, with some signs of recovery across industries from mining to agriculture. 

“The pace is realistic given where we are coming from. We have health workers and medicines in our hospitals; teachers and books in our schools; food in our supermarkets and granaries; water in our taps and fuel in our petrol stations. We have a dependable and stable multi-currency regime and single digit inflation,” Tsvangirai told investors, business leaders, representatives of diaspora organisations and diplomats. 

He reiterated a commitment to the coalition government stating reconciliation was the only solution for the country to attain peace and progress in a “post conflict” country. But he added that Robert Mugabe would move on eventually. He said the coalition government would work to a resolution through elections which would be held once the constitution was approved, though it remains unclear when the elecrions will be held, or under precisely what circumstances, or whether foreign monitors would be welcome. 

The summit looked at the investment environment in Zimbabwe, the impact of the country’s brain drain on its human capital, agriculture and food security, South Africa’s relations with Zimbabwe and the ethics of investment in Zimbabwe. 

The Economist’s News Editor Adam Roberts said the discussions and the general mood at the summit showed that there were signs of renewed interest in the country, but it remained unclear whether the current stability and recovery could be sustained. 

“For the first time in a long while you have investors seriously considering if this is the right moment to invest in Zimbabwe and you have Zimbabweans in the diaspora contemplating if this is the right time to return,” Roberts said.  

“But many serious tests are yet to be passed, and the diaspora, investors, donors and others need a great deal more assurances.”  

The German ambassador to Zimbabwe, Albrecht Conze who was one of the panellists said change was “millimetreing forward.” He said real progress could only be made once a new constitution was agreed. Another panellist talked of Zimbabwe as a “pre-emerging” economy. 

A discussion of agriculture, the mainstay of the economy, revealed sharp differences of opinion on the need to protect property rights and promote land tenure, with commercial farmers’ representatives warning that legal disputes and claims for substantial compensation for expropriated land, would not be wished away. 

Concern was also raised over government plans for “indigenisation” – the handing of significant portions of companies to black investors – which is seen in some quarters as an attempt by Mr Mugabe to expropriate businesses for his allies.  

Other speakers at the summit including the Development Bank of Southern Africa’s David Monyae, said efforts were needed to rehabilitate Zimbabwe’s infrastructure. He said the DBSA had invested about $500 million in Zimbabwe mainly in the ICT and energy sectors. 

Zimbabwean businessman Trevor Ncube, who is Executive Deputy Chairman of Mail & Guardian, said the government was yet to put together policies to entice Zimbabweans to go back home to plough their skills into rebuilding the country. Doubt remained of the sustainability of the current reforms, he said. 

“Zimbabweans are not convinced that the changes are sustainable. Not many people are driven by patriotism alone. Government has to create political stability that guarantees security for people to go back home,” Ncube said. 

Zimbabwean minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, Tapiwa Mashakada said that the government was working at dismantling red tape that made it difficult to do business in the country. He said that rebuilding of the country’s shattered infrastructure was a priority. 

Concerning the country’s chronic power shortages, Zimbabwean energy minister, Elton Mangoma shared plans to boost energy supply by increasing capacity at the Kariba hydro -power plant by 300MW, an additional 600 MW at Hwange and through an independently run thermal power plant to be built in Gokwe in the next three years. 

Tsvangirai said sceptics of the coalition government should recognise that the powersharing deal had aided a transition to normalcy. 

He said while the failed policies of the past would continue to haunt the current government, he would use his party’s position in Government to mitigate these failed policies. 

“I am able to say in five years the situation in Zimbabwe will be totally different and am confident that across the political divide no one wants Zimbabwe to slide back,” Tsvangirai said. 

The Economist will host a follow-up summit in Harare next year and Tsvangirai undertook to compare progress then against his statements today.

 

To contact The Economist’s South African office call +27 11 881 5770.

 

Ends

 

For more information contact:

 

Lindi Tshabangu

082 92 92 980

lindi@headlinespr.co.za

 

Simone Lipshitz

083 263 3522

simone@headlinespr.co.za

 

Tambu Johnhera

072 310 9182

Tambu@headlinespr.co.za

 

 

About The Economist Group
The publications and services delivered under The Economist brand are The Economist
newspaper, The Economist online, Economist Intelligence Unit, Economist Conferences, The
World In and Intelligent Life. The Group’s other brands include: CQ-Roll Call Group and
European Voice (aimed at decision-makers on Capitol Hill and Brussels respectively) and
EuroFinance, a cash and treasury management event business. The Economist Group is
privately owned.
www.economistgroup.com

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