The Sunday Mail
Earlier this year, Mr Ronny Levi Musan was appointed Zimbabwe’s Honorary Consul General to Israel, heralding a positive development in relations between the two countries. Last week, our Deputy News Editor Kuda Bwititi spoke to Mr Musan on a variety of issues, including what role he can play in getting Western sanctions on Zimbabwe lifted.
Below is the interview.
Q: Please give us your brief profile and what led to your appointment?
A: For the past 20 years, I have served as a counsellor to the Church in the Holy Land (in Israel), working with many churches around the world. That is how I developed my relationship with Africa.
About five years ago I was invited to Zimbabwe for a two-week visit. I saw the amazing people as well as the beautiful country and this encouraged me to visit a couple more times, meeting with a number of ministers and church leaders.
One of the most historic and significant projects I have done with the Church in the Holy Land is the construction of a Memorial Hall in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ. I was privileged to personally commemorate Pope Francis during his visit to Bethlehem and to receive his blessing for this important venture. This occasion is what led me to start building a spiritual relationship with His Excellency, President Mnangagwa.
Indeed, I held a special prayer in the Church of the Nativity with the Parish priest of Bethlehem and commemorated the President’s name on the walls of the Memorial Hall. From there I continued my activities with Israeli and Zimbabwe’s foreign ministries in order to promote diplomatic relations that were not so active between the two countries.
Q: What are some of the targets that you have set out to achieve in your role?
A: The main issues in my focus are technologies in the field of agriculture, education and innovation. These are in my opinion the cornerstones that will return the crown to Zimbabwe as the “Grain Basket” of Africa.
Other issues that we are looking at helping Zimbabwe with are energy, tourism, water, health, security, and leveraging the country’s natural resources.
I meet everyday with companies, entrepreneurs and people with fine technologies who want to invest in Zimbabwe. I get thousands of messages and I try to answer everyone patiently and efficiently. Every proposal is examined, every request for co-operation is thoroughly examined.
What guides me in all my activities is not to take from Zimbabwe but to give to Zimbabwe and I recommend anyone who wants to work with Zimbabwe to think the same.
Therefore, the issue of project financing is a major issue that keeps sleep out of my eyes.
Once we find the funding formula that fits Zimbabwe with the help of private entities, we will be hugely successful.
On the spiritual issue, I have a number of projects which I want to set up in collaboration with the major churches in Zimbabwe that will bring the Holy Land closer to Zimbabwe and create a centre of pilgrimage for internal and external tourism from all countries that will visit Zimbabwe. This project will greatly help in creating many jobs and enhancing religious tourism in Zimbabwe.
Q: What is the current state of relations between Zimbabwe and Israel with regards to trade and investment?
A: The State of Israel has had diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe since 1993. Also, there are partial diplomatic relations as of 2013, but alongside mutual recognition of each country, as well as limited co-operation on economic issues. There is no official embassy in either country.
My appointment as Honorary Consul of Zimbabwe is another step in warming relations and I am personally going to take it as far as possible because I see here a tremendous opportunity to build a strong, fruitful and brave relationship that will bring real benefits to both countries.
The sanctions that exist on Zimbabwe make it difficult to promote economic relations between the countries but I see Zimbabwe getting into a new era.
Q: How can Israel assist Zimbabwe in its fight for the lifting of sanctions?
A: Israel has a global influence that can definitely help Zimbabwe at the political level which at the end can alleviate the sanctions on Zimbabwe. This is a process but we are definitely going there.
One of the most important moves in this regard is the opening of a Zimbabwean embassy in Israel. It will certainly help Zimbabwe because Israel is willing to help Zimbabwe tremendously if that happens. As you may know, Israel has opened up embassies with many other African countries.
The United States and the European Union claim that the sanctions are against specific people and companies in Zimbabwe and not against the country itself, so they do not think it prevents companies from operating in Zimbabwe.
In practice, it makes it very difficult for companies to work there and get bank financing for projects and I know it myself because of the funding requests we asked for to finance revolutionary agricultural projects that can help Zimbabwe and for which we received a negative answer.
This situation requires us to work harder to look for private investors to fund projects in Zimbabwe. It should be noted that the institutions which are bearing the brunt of these sanctions are bodies that affect almost the entire economy of Zimbabwe, so in fact the whole country suffers and is paralysed.
Israel can certainly help Zimbabwe on the sanctions issue in two ways. Firstly, in training the homeland security forces dealing with a population that opposes the Government and secondly in international diplomatic work that will influence the US and EU to remove the sanctions. It is a process, but it is certainly possible.
Q: On October 25, which is the SADC Anti-Sanctions Day, what activities are you going to hold in Israel to support Zimbabwe’s anti sanctions lobby?
A: First and foremost, as a person who believes in God and the fact that I am in the Holy Land, it obliges me to pray for the peace and growth of Zimbabwe, so on October 25, I will join in prayer with the heads of the Church in the Holy Land, who will pray for the citizens of Zimbabwe in the Holy Sites. I am convinced that the heads of the churches in Zimbabwe will hold special prayers on this important day. In addition, we will hold a number of meetings with key figures in the Israeli government to discuss with them ways to help Zimbabwe. It should be noted that we have already sent to His Excellency the President the recorded greeting of the Foreign Minister of Israel and the letter of the Prime Minister of Israel expressing support for deepening relations between the two countries, which will undoubtedly help Zimbabwe internationally in this matter.
Q: How best can Zimbabwe tap into Israel’s technological advancement, particularly in agriculture?
A: There is no place in the world where you will not find Israeli technology, the world knows this and cherishes it.
Agriculture is the main factor that can change the face of Zimbabwe.
I am today building plans for technological advancement that will help farmers to get better crops.
We plan to build farms that will improve local production and significantly help agricultural exports to European countries. We have a plan to unite farmers with special technology that will manage everyone’s general crop and allow farmers to better manage work and let buyers know where there are ready-to-buy goods, so that the farmers will not lose the crop due to lack of proper sales management.
Q: What are the general sentiments from Israel’s potential investors on Zimbabwe?
A: Every person who invests money wants to know that his money is safe and secure.
Zimbabwe’s ongoing economic situation makes it difficult to obtain international credit. Investors are afraid to invest even though they want to.
We have significant plans for Zimbabwe but the issue holding investors back from immediate implementing is funding.
If we work together with the authorities in Zimbabwe and set goals, produce economic conferences with the participation of large investors from Israel, then we will achieve significant results.
In conclusion, I want to say Israel is very excited about the warming of relations and my appointment. We are working hard to recruit as many companies and investors as possible to join us in this journey. So far, we have received positive feedback from many leading companies in Israel.
Anyone who wants to send his request or receive information, is welcome to contact me in person by email [email protected] or leave a message on my Twitter @RLFFHL and I promise to reply.