Zim haunted by perception

HARARE - There has been a lot of excitement about the news that the widely-condemned Indigenisation law would finally be revisited to factor in some sector-specific requirements.

It is important though to realise the harm such defective policies had on the national economy.

There is no doubt any sane foreign investor would want to pour in their cash into an economy whose policy makers continuously threaten to grab shares from these well-meaning entrepreneurs.

They expect to realise a return on their investment and if they should have part of it taken away, they would rather not venture in the first place.

In a way when government begins to swallow its pride and show signs that they may rethink on such destructive policies, there is need to applaud it.

However, it does not end there though, because putting down laws in writing is one thing and following them is quite another.

The tragedy with our system is that even if these pronouncements were to be put in black and white, Zimbabwe has an entrenched history of disobeying its own laws.

Zimbabwe signed Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (Bipas) with several countries.

Despite the existence of these agreements, foreign-owned properties have been taken over.

Therefore even though government may have legislation in place, perceptions that have grown over the years that even these laws could at times be disregarded may in the end scare investors away.

Through policy pronouncements, government hopes would be that all citizens would obey the legislation that goes with them.

But when some privileged groups continue to invade farms, conservancies etc when laws exist to protect them, would-be investors develop cold feet.

In a way, this does not better the country’s situation at all. If anything, it only works to destroy the little confidence investors were beginning to develop in the country and its laws.

It is important therefore that government works towards enforcing the country’s existing laws and take stern action against those that contravene the same.

The current impasse over the control of a conservancy in the Mwenezi area is one typical example.

Several similar instances have occurred in the past, especially the Save conservancies.

The law must take its course. After the fast track land reform programme, government then announced that anyone who wanted land would have to apply through their local land offices.

The days of farm invasions must be things of the past but reports of new instances will only destroy what others are busy building.

Invasions of Tongaat Hullet sugar plantations in the Lowveld are another case in point.

Although invaders were arrested and are appearing in court, the mere occurrence of such a thing is disturbing.

The tourism sector for instance has been busy trying to spruce up the image of the country, but reports of murders on farms — the most recent being the Guruve murder of a farmer and his daughter by yet to be identified assailants.

These are only a few of the episodes in which the country has failed to enforce its own laws and watched helplessly as near- anarchy took hold.

The outside world, as a result views Zimbabwe as a country that can come up with laws but do very little to enforce them.

In the face of a serious investor these remain as unanswered questions.

If Zimbabwe has to be able to attract Foreign Direct Investment, widely hoped to breathe life into the ailing national economy, there is need to work on these perceptions the world has on the country.

As things stand Zimbabwe is haunted by these perceptions of the country as an unsafe investment destination.

It is like the country is taking three steps forward and four backwards. Effectively the general direction is backwards.

Australia’s envoy to Zimbabwe best summed the feeling when he said investing in Zimbabwe was like taking a leap into the “crocodile-infested Zambezi River”. Need we say more?

The best way forward therefore would be for the powers that be to swallow their pride and accept that the route we had taken was not leading us anywhere.

Once that happens, the ability and zest to chart a new way forward gets fortified.

Every citizen would then be found trying to contribute in finding the best way forward for the country.