James Makamba returns home

HARARE – Businessman James Makamba ended 12 years of self-imposed exile when he touched down at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport yesterday.

One of several businessmen and high-profile politicians who fled Mugabe’s iron fisted rule, Makamba’s unexpected return temporarily brought the arrival section at the terminal to a standstill.

James Makamba

James Makamba

Family and friends who had not seen him for nearly two decades embraced the thickly-bearded Makamba in jovial scenes that caught the attention of those going about their business.

His arrival marked exactly 12 years after he fled Zimbabwe in 2005 as he feared for his life following rumours he had “angered” Mugabe.

Makamba’s exit came as he was charged with violating the Exchange Control Act.

He was charged with allegedly externalising £3,7 million, $2.1 million and R15 million.

He skipped bail and fled the country.

In a video recording posted on his Facebook wall, Makamba said he was answering the call by President Emmerson Mnangagwa for all exiled Zimbabweans to return home and build the country.

“Anyone who has been away from home for an extended period of time, you know, will tell you that it’s no fun being away from home,” Makamba said on his return.

“So much happens during your absence. In my case I lost a dear daughter, Chiedza, known to most people and friends. Relatives and family had to stand in (for me during) her burial, a thing I found extremely painful, but, however, life goes on. We are answering the call of President, Comrade Emmerson Mnangagwa to come home work with others in rebuilding the economy because Zimbabwe is going to be great once again.”

All that seemed like a distant nightmare as Makamba immediately declared his love for his country saying he was encouraged by the new dispensation to return home.

During his tenure as vice president, Mnangangwa had previously pleaded with exiled Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora to invest in Zimbabwe saying their businesses will be protected.

Speaking at the Investment Conference 2017 in Sandton, South Africa in June Mnangangwa implored foreign nationals to pour resources into the politically volatile southern African nation adding that contrary to widespread allegations rule of law obtained in the country.

At that meeting, Mnangangwa led a high-powered delegation that included Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, Industry minister Mike Bimha and then Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Promotion minister Obert Mpofu as he sought to improve foreign ties.

He made his promise good as he was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s second president and stressed in his inaugural speech that the country has struggled to attract foreign aid and investment owing to low investor confidence escalated by lack of policy clarity and transparency regarding key economic issues, such as implementation of the indigenisation and empowerment laws.

The country’s once-vibrant economy has been shattered by retrogressive policies, particularly the seizure of white-owned farms for the resettlement of landless blacks.

At the same time, a number of successful black business entrepreneurs among them Mutumwa Mawere, James Mushore, Mthuli Ncube, Makamba and Strive Masiyiwa have faced hostility from the government.

Most have been hounded out of the country.

Some have had their businesses targeted by government on charges which have collapse once tested in the courts of law.