The Sunday Mail
Ambassador Gertrude Takawira in Lusaka, Zambia
The relationship between Zimbabwe and Zambia was probably at its peak during the liberation struggle in that there was a lot of personal commitment and sacrifice based on solidarity, unity; those principles and values espoused by the founding fathers of Africa. During our struggle for independence, Zambia washome to liberation movements in Southern Africa: Swapo (Namibia), MPLA (Angola), Frelimo (Mozambique), Zapu and Zanu (Zimbabwe), ANC (South Africa). After Mozambique gained independence, Frelimo left Zambia and Zanu joined them in their country.
The sacrifice Zambia made for the freedom of our country cements our relationship very deeply, and it is a part of our history that we cannot wish away, that we cannot erase, that we can only build on. We are seeing there is a lot of work around strengthening our relations.
Zimbabwe has five liberation war shrines in Zambia, and for me that is the evidence of our relationship. Those graves show that, indeed, we were housed here. They show that Zambians also paid the price of the struggle, those who were caught up in Rhodesian bombardments that killed Zimbabweans.
Many Zambians would rush to the rescue of Zimbabweans whenever they were attacked. They donated blood through hospitals and we shared the same schools.
So, our relationship with Zambia, particularly during the struggle, is something we need to continuously talk about.
Blood forms a very important basis of our relationship, and it must never be forgotten.
Zimbabwe’s Constitution provides for dual citizenship for Southern African countries, and Zambia has similar provisions.
If you look at the history of the two countries, migration has been taking place since the Federation (of Southern and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland).
Some Zimbabweans in Zambia have pink citizenship, meaning they cannot vote, though free to work.
Such individuals were born in Zambia, but cannot be Zambians. We hope once dual citizenship is aligned to immigration laws, citizens of both countries will be able to exercise their rights.
There are concerns about immigration laws, so that would help the people.
We are still trying to establish the number of Zimbabweans in that bracket. Some hide while others don’t. There have even been cases of people who emerge when they are 70/80 years old and want to go home.
Therefore, dual citizenship will allow people to come out. We have discussed the matter at different forums; there is need to make a case for it.
Zimbabwe’s Embassy in Lusaka has had the opportunity to discuss trade, especially regarding maize. Most of Zimbabwe’s maize imports come from Zambia whose sentiment is: “We cannot let Zimbabwe suffer; we helped them through the (liberation) struggle.”
Zimbabweans are also helping in the Zambian economy as our biggest export to Zambia is our human capital. You cannot fail to see the hand of a Zimbabwean in projects being rolled out here.
For instance, there is Lake Harvest and many other Zimbabwean companies opening shop.
I feel, though, that we Zimbabweans need to create a greater risk appetite to invest. Opportunities are plenty, but one should not come expecting clear-cut space.
Some areas are greenfields, and one needs to cut down trees.
We are now, as the region, looking at economic integration. We have graduated from political integration and are now seeing a lot of economic integration. Through the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, we are expecting to see strengthening of economic ties and exchange.
Like I mentioned earlier, dual citizenship should be one of the instruments that will drive that kind of integration.
Yes, you can have integration; free movement of economic goods, but those goods don’t move alone, they need people.
So, the people should also be able to move freely between the two countries. Going forward, Zambia and Zimbabwe will continue strengthening their relations. We have had quite a number of inquiries from, for instance, individual businesspeople. Some in manufacturing here would now want to extend the same facilities to Zimbabwe.
(There has been interest in) beverages, ICT … Zimbabweans are coming here. There is also tobacco in terms of value addition, not just the cigarettes but developing the skills, particularly in Zambia.
Further, some Zimbabweans in leather production are coming here through Comesa to sell their products.
And, of course, there is agriculture; the technical side of it. There was (an agricultural show) in May 2016, and Zimbabweans showcased their products there.
So there is a lot of interest.
Like I said, Zimbabweans come and have a look, but sometimes they consider that the business is not yet developed.
I think there’s a tendency by Zimbabweans to (seek) finished products rather than working on nothing to create something.
(Of course) there is competition — you will meet the Indians, Chinese, Lebanese, but you need to create your own niche.
The South Africans are coming in.
In fact, I would say the South Africans are quite more bullish in terms of coming into this market than we are.
We have had inquiries (from Zimbabweans), but some have not been followed through. There have been people who came to do feasibility studies and we didn’t get to hear the end of the story. We need to see more confidence in Zimbabweans coming into the Zambian market.
It’s different from Zimbabwe, but I believe it can be done.
We have also had discussions where businesses (showed that they) are catching on to economies of scale.
Is it beneficial to have a cotton ginnery in Zambia and another in Zimbabwe?
Would it not be better to have one section of the value chain and value addition in one country and probably have the marketing, trade done in the other?
This has been talked about; for instance, in the case of copper where people proposed having smelting (done) in one country and the other country taking care of trade.
Industrialisation is still being talked about. There is still that need for trust in one another as countries so that a certain part of the value chain can be in one country and the second in the other. (This will help ensure) greater maximisation of economies of scale in one country for that particular section of value addition.
We also have skills.
People have agreed that there are certain skills that Zimbabweans have. Is it better to import the skills or just have production where the skills are? These are quite interesting debates at different industrialisation forums.
Ambassador Gertrude Takawira is Zimbabwe’s chief diplomat in Zambia. This article was taken from her conversation with The Sunday Mail News Editor Morris Mkwate in Lusaka on June 9, 2016