The Sunday Mail
Senior Business Reporter
GOVERNMENT has expressed concern over the negative impact of the violent protests, which rocked Zimbabwe last week, paralysing business activity and public sector operations, amid fears the ugly events may scare away investors exploring opportunities in the domestic economy.
Protests during the three-day mass stay-away, caused more damage on the economy than just the monetary value of lost business revenue, property destroyed through acts of vandalism and theft by rioters, said Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndhlovu last Friday.
As Zimbabwe starts counting the full cost of the mass stay-away — between Monday and Wednesday last week — organised by the MDC Alliance, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and Non Governmental Organisations, Government said last week the country could miss out on significant potential investment.
The unfortunate events unfolded as Government, led by President Mnangagwa who is due to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week, is pulling all stops as part of widespread efforts to attract foreign investment and re-establish and promote global ties to rebuild the economy.
These efforts come after nearly two decades of global isolation of Zimbabwe over human rights issues, resulting in lean foreign investment inflows, which averaged about $400 million annually in the last 5 years against regional averages of $2,5 billion and wobbly economy.
Demos may scare away investment
Minister Ndhlovu told the Sunday Mail Business after attending the launch of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI)’s 2018 Manufacturing Survey report on Friday that a Belgian business delegation due to visit Zimbabwe this week had since cancelled some of the programmes.
“There are concerns, I want to respond to the issue of (last week’s violence ridden) strike, this is taking us years back when you look at the infrastructure that is being destroyed, it will take resources that are scarce to rebuild.
“Jobs are at risk and investor confidence is the biggest knock that we are now facing. We had a delegation; (in fact) they are still coming on 22nd of this month. They are coming from Belgium. They had indicated they wanted to proceed to Bulawayo to look at twining arrangements with industry in Bulawayo.
“They have since, I am told, cancelled the Bulawayo trip because they now fear for their lives if they go there. These are the unintended consequences of the actions planned by a few people who do not think long term. Now we have to pick up the pieces as Zimbabwe and continue to promote our country,” he said.
Zimbabwe desperately requires significant foreign direct investment to rebuild industrial capacity decimated by nearly two decades of economic malaise, which resulted in several companies closing down and hundreds of thousands of workers losing their jobs.
Amid the high unemployment levels, as industry battles to regain its footing while capacity is subdued across all productive sectors, Zimbabwe faces crippling shortages of foreign currency needed to meet external obligations, yet it is dependent on imports.
CZI on impact of protests
CZI president Sifelani Jabangwe said all sectors of the domestic economy suffered loss of potential business amounting to $100 million a day after businesses failed to open due to the violent mass stay away.
He said the violent protests will spook investors and deny Zimbabwe the much needed investment.
“Foreign investors will not come unless they know that their investments will be safe. An investor may do two things; build a factory and after building a factory they put stock in there.
“But as Zimbabweans, if we reflect that one day when we wake up and are not happy, we go in and take the stock, destroy or burn the buildings, what we are saying is that investment is not safe.
“This economy will not improve because those actions will just destroy whatever prospects we have for foreign direct investment because right now there are people that have woken up and have no jobs, that have lost their factories,” he said.
Mr Jabangwe said violent protests in the mould of events that transpired last week negatively affect all sectors of the economy, including tourism where visitors will think twice before coming to Zimbabwe.
He said while the Constitution enshrined the right to peaceful protests, those behind them must not abuse their rights and were duty bound to make sure their activities were not infiltrated by criminal elements.
Minister Ndhlovu said it was critical that everyone promoted Zimbabwe as a safe investment destination, with state organs that function and Government policy that support thriving private enterprise.
“I want to appeal to everyone involved, that Zimbabwe is the only country that we have and it is very important that we take decisive steps to promote our country. We cannot afford the (bad) publicity that we have generated (due to violent protests).
“Just yesterday, the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality was telling that there is a Chinese delegation that is due to come here, but they are wondering whether they should come because they are worried about their safety.
“This is what as Zimbabwe we are doing to ourselves; we do not need this. We do not need the violence that we are seeing. This is a country where the President has opened the space for dialogue, for democracy and for freedom of expression, but that is also subject to responsible behaviour,” he said.