Industry looking forward to life after polls

As Zimbabweans cast their ballot tomorrow to elect a new Government, industry has praised the peaceful environment that characterised the campaign period and is pinning hopes for massive economic take-off on a transparent voting process and a tranquil post-election period.

Tomorrow’s harmonised elections are probably the most peaceful since independence as political parties heeded President Mnangagwa’s call for a free, fair and credible plebiscite.

Crucially, tomorrow’s elections come at a time when the economy is emerging from the difficulties of the past two decades caused by sanctions imposed by the West and the dereliction of duty by former President Robert Mugabe, who became seized with fueling the factional egos of his ambitious wife, Mrs Grace Mugabe.

In the process, corruption and other malpractices in Government went unchecked.

But with industry ramping up capacity utilisation and some sectors such as beverages and food increasing employment levels to meet demand, the economy is on an upward trajectory since the coming in of the new administration led by President Mnangagwa.

Similarly, new companies such as Pepsi and Karo Holdings are opening up, while those that had mothballed operations like gold mining firm, Eureka, are resuming operations, thanks to the business confidence brought about by the new administration.

The country’s biggest industry representative body, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), says manufacturers are happy with the way the campaign period has panned out, and would want to see the same after voting tomorrow.

CZI president Mr Sifelani Jabangwe, told The Sunday Mail Business last week that the peaceful environment before, during and after polls is central to ensuring the plebiscite is endorsed as free, fair and credible by election observer missions that descended on the country in huge numbers.

“For us, the key issue is that the people have been calm in the campaign period, which is expected for there to be a credible election,” said Mr Jabangwe.

“So we are now expecting that the conduct and post-election period will also pass in the same way, and then we can return to work. We want the elections to be credible so that the re-engagement that we have with the rest of the world continues.

“We are quite happy that the Government has facilitated that the elections be held under such (peaceful) circumstances and all the parties have also observed peace.”

Mr Jabangwe said business performance “is at its  best” at the moment, adding that “for a long time, we have seen companies performing fairly well”.

“We continue to believe that business should take centre stage. Prioritisation of industry should continue taking the lead (after polls).”

Due to the encouraging performance of companies since January, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has been overwhelmed by applications for foreign payments as firms seek to boost their operations.

Since his inauguration on November 24 last year, President Mnangagwa declared that the economy must now come first, with politics coming last.

This has resulted in him announcing a raft of policy changes such as the amendment of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, previously seen as an affront to investment, although it was a noble idea.

Government has since scrapped the prior need for foreign-owned investors to hold 49 percent in business ventures they initiate while locals got 51 percent.

So far, only the diamond and platinum sectors still subscribe to the 51/ 49 shareholding structure while the rest have been opened up.

However, foreign investors who set up a value addition and beneficiation plant for both diamonds and platinum are allowed to own their investment 100 percent.

Government is working on a Diamond Policy, which will spell out a number of issues regards the sector, including ownership structures.

Immediately after that, a Platinum Policy, with similar aspirations, would also be created.

Statistics from the Zimbabwe Investment Authority — the country’s premier investment promotion body — show that investment approvals between January and June 30 this year are over US$16 billion, driven by investors’ insatiable appetite to take up local investment opportunities.

Market watchers have advised investors to “climb the elephant while it is still lying down as they would need a ladder when it wakes up”.

When that happens, barriers to entry into Zimbabwe’s economy will be high.

Several projects such as the expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station to add 600MW of power to the national grid and the modernisation of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport have now unlocked a combined US$1,6 billion.

Both projects have been on ice for the last decade due to funding constraints.

Pickstone Peerless Gold Mine and Falcon Gold have announced plans to spread its tentacles in the country riding on the vastly improved investment climate.

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