Zimbabweans living in South Africa have implored President Robert Mugabe’s government to address issues of trust – or lack thereof – between government departments and Zimbabweans in the diaspora wishing to invest in their country of birth.
This was the overwhelming plea by leaders of the Zim SA Forum, Mr Anele Ndlovu and Mr Lenny Mukonoweshuro, during a presentation for the Diaspora Perspectives in Zimbabwe National Development at the Diaspora Engagement South Africa session which was held in Fourways this week.
Similar meetings between Zimbabwe government representatives, business people and investors in the diaspora, and political leaders are in progress for Zimbabweans in the diaspora.
Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Macro Economic Planning and Investment, in partnership under the auspices of the International Organisation for Migration and the European Union, is on a rolling charm offensive to drum up faltering remittances from the diaspora.
In the six months to June this year, diaspora remittances amounted to $397 million, 13 percent lower than in the same period last year and the government wants the estimated five million Zimbabwean citizens resident outside the country to contribute more, to offset gaps in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
FDI, which dropped 23 percent to $421 million in 2015, is seen further declining this year, according to the Zimbabwe central bank.
Zimbabwe is hoping that interventions by politicians and foreign missions, businesspeople, bankers, investors and traders will establish formal, low-cost, affordable and secure channels for remittances and social security benefits, thereby encouraging investment and contributing to poverty reduction, and hopefully will double the $1 billion that was remitted into Zimbabwe last year through official channels.
Ndlovu, who is President of the Zim-SA Forum said it was common knowledge that bureacracy was a stumbling block in doing business in Zimbabwe, and this manifested in a number of ways.
“We can all point to examples of slow decision-making, and we all know how difficult it is to conduct business in a depressed economy like Zimbabwe, and to obtain permits.
“My organisation (Zim-SA Forum) has already started forming consortiums with Zimbabweans who are experts in various fields who want to get involved in areas like construction and development projects in Zimbabwe, as well as investments. But it is frustrating to see that our own people, highly qualified people in these areas, are excluded from bulk projects, in favour of South African companies, Chinese or other foreign organisations. Road and infrastructure construction is one example.
“What Zimbabwe needs is to create an enabling environment and an accommodating environment.
“What Zimbabwe needs is to create an enabling environment and an accommodating environment. We need to speak with one voice on matters that concern ourselves and our nation. We can organise the Zimbabwean experts to go back and rebuild Zimbabwe, but will the Zimbabwean experts agree to go and work in the country where one only gets paid six months after the completion of the project. Answer is No,” said Ndlovu.
He added that Zimbabweans generally, and those in the diaspora in particular were very interested in contributing to the re-development of the country, but at the same time they were very suspicious and sceptical, as many of the members in his organisation had raised issues of security of investment, issues of corruption, bureacracy, controls, decision making and waste of resources.
Delegates at the engagement included Zimbabwe ambassador to SA Mr Isaac Moyo, Dr DM Sibanda Zimbabwe’s permanent secretary in the Ministry of Macro Economic Planning and Investment who was the keynote speaker and went to great lengths to explain the Zimbabwe National Diaspora Initiative programme.
Dr Morris Mpofu, the director of exchange control at the central bank was at pains to speak about the much maligned bond notes and their imminent arrival in Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwe Investment Authority chief executive officer Mr Richard Mbaiwa answered questions on what Zimbabwe offered as an investment destination, while Mr Benjamin Gwenzi executive director of operations spoke for Homelink.
Other panelists included Mr Asere Shumba of Schweppes who spoke about farming and the potential for partnerships between Schweppes and the diaspora. Dr G Mhlanga presented the way forward for the Zimbabwe Ministry of Tourism, Mr Basil Nyabadza of the Agriculture and Rural Development Agency, presented a video which featured farmer Ken Drummond, a pionner white farmer who has survived the political upheavals of land disputes in Zimbabwe to become one of the most successful agriculturalists to make a living off the land in Zimbabwe.
Mr George Chirwa head of Ecocash in South Africa made a presentation on how Ecocash had changed the face of diaspora remittances for Zimbabweans
Mr George Chirwa head of Ecocash in South Africa made a presentation on how Ecocash had changed the face of diaspora remittances for Zimbabweans, and Mr Mukonoweshuro the consul general spoke for the services offered by the Zimbabwe consulate in Johannesburg.
A Zimbabwe government delegation on Perspectives in National Development was on roadshows in England and Canada two weeks ago, and the session in Johannesburg this week will be followed by other engagements in Cape Town and Durban in the coming week.
Meanwhile Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa said despite the fact that the country faced social and economic difficulties, protest will never change the government.
Ambassador Moyo said the government remained strong and in charge, and he emphasised the role the diaspora could play in the development of Zimbabwe, through engagement between fellow citizens.
Most of Zimbabwe’s working class are migrants in South Africa and the Zimbabwean government is optimistic about the diaspora’s role in the development of the country.
“We know they (Zimbabweans in the diaspora) are ready and want to make a contribution to the development of the country. This is just a promotion.”
“The investment from diaspora makes a large percentage of the total revenue. We want to encourage Zimbabweans to take advantage of the investment opportunities. This is part of broader reform program to grow the economy.”
Zim-SA Forum President Anele Ndlovu meets George Chirwa head of Ecocash in South Africa. Chirwa made a presentation on how Ecocash has changed the face of diaspora remittances for Zimbabweans.
Mr Basil Nyabadza of the Agriculture and Rural Development Agency presented a video which featured farmer Ken Drummond,(foreground) a pionner white farmer who has survived the political upheavals of land disputes in Zimbabwe to become one of the most successful agriculturalists to make a living off the land in Zimbabwe
Group picture for the Zimbabwe South Africa diaspora engagement, organised by the European Union and the International Organisation for Migration pose for a group picture in Johannesburg this week. Pictures by Dumisani Sibanda