Zimbabwe’s Agenda for Sadc: Regional, international priorities

President Mugabe assuming the Sadc chair while flanked by Foreign Affairs Minister and chairperson of the Sadc Council of Ministers Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Sadc Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax in Victoria Falls recently.

President Mugabe assuming the Sadc chair while flanked by Foreign Affairs Minister and chairperson of the Sadc Council of Ministers Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Sadc Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax in Victoria Falls recently.

Address by Zimbabwe’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon Christopher Mutsvangwa to The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House

ON September 16, 2014, Zimbabwe Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa, presented a keynote address at the United Kingdom (UK) foreign policy think-tank, Chatham House: The Royal Institute of International Affairs.

The event was attended by representatives of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the British business sector, civil society, academia and the London diplomatic corps.

Ambassador Mutsvangwa’s speech was entitled “Zimbabwe’s Agenda for SADC: Regional and International Priorities.”
The speech largely dwelt on the country’s aspirations in the light of the assumption of the regional bloc’s chairmanship by President Mugabe of the Republic of Zimbabwe as of August 2014.

Ambassador Mutsvangwa underscored that all economic indicators and growing business energy are advertising that this is Prime Time Africa. And the gloss is shining on Sadc as one of the most economically vibrant regions with 300 million inhabitants and a total Gross Domestic Product of over US$650 billion underpinned by a 5 percent growth rate.

Ambassador Mutsvangwa urged the City of London as the global capital of finance, to pay heed to the tantalising opportunities in Sadc and assume due lead in mobilising international capital.

He highlighted that Sadc was sure to blaze a new trail in the footsteps of the Asian Tigers, China and other newly emergent economic players that now straddle the world.

This new economic vision springs from a solid foundation of democracy, peace and political stability. On the political thrust of Sadc, the Deputy Foreign Minister noted that Sadc countries have developed close bonds that go beyond a shared geography.

Mutual support and political solidarity as the regional nations struggled for freedom and independence against foreign domination, minority settler rule, racism and apartheid has brought all Sadc states even closer. Indeed Sadc has a unique distinction that it has acquired a “political soul” courtesy of this history.

Citing his sown circumstances as an example, he recounted how he decided to join the armed national liberation war against the settler racist minority regime of Ian Smith’s Rhodesia.

He had to skip the border into the safety of newly independent Mozambique which at the time was ready to host Zimbabwe’s freedom fighters.
This was a role that was also being discharged by Zambia, Tanzania and Angola for the benefit of all National Liberation Movements from the region. It is, therefore, not surprising that Sadc states have an “organic” feeling for each other.

Ambassador Mutsvangwa chided the UK for losing out opportunities in Sadc in general and Zimbabwe in particular as it continues to dispense with its comparative advantages of history, language, business and culture that it had garnered during its imperial days.  British influence and capital had ushered Southern Africa into the era of the modern nation state.

As such the UK still has ample chance to play a constructive role in the Sadc region.
Ambassador Mutsvangwa said rather than negatively view the inevitable and growing role of China in the region, London should embrace this as a good development which broadens and deepens the environment of business.

Beijing was playing a significant role in building infrastructure, providing capital, technical expertise and management acumen. Most exciting was the new and expansive marketing opportunities of its prospering populace.

Other BRICS nations together with the newly emergent economies were all a part to this exciting business climate in Sadc as they join the traditional economic partners.

It was singularly important that British official policy seizes that moment and gives signals to the City of London to become a reliable and forward looking partner as it renders vaunted financial services to the Sadc region.

“Courtesy of history, you the British have the ‘software’ while the Chinese now have the ‘hardware’ to unlock the value of Sadc’s primary resources and help launch the sub-region onto the escalator of the global economy and international business.

“Let not grudges and tiffs stand in the way of this grand opening. Families have their tiffs. Virtue comes in how you shunt them aside and get back to business. Sadc is replete with exciting opportunities.

“While the fallout between Zimbabwe and the UK was totally unnecessary, it could yet turn out to be a blessing in disguise if we work hard to mend our relations with the goal that they emerge even closer and stronger,” Ambassador Mutsvangwa opined.

“The City of London can still put good deals together. Why not do once again what Cecil Rhodes did in 1890 when he brought capital and business to Zimbabwe? Of course there is a caveat in keeping with new times: No to the Maxim machine gun and his obnoxious racism,” the Deputy Foreign Minister quipped.

Highlighting specific economic and business opportunities, Ambassador Mutsvangwa zeroed in on Sadc’s enormous energy potential that straddles hydro-electricity, thermal generation from coal and natural gas, uranium and nuclear power and now the solar panels.

The Grand Inga Dam has distinct possibilities in the wake of Chinese interest.
A protocol for the realisation of the project was announced at the Sadc Summit in Victoria Falls.

The huge coal reserves in Tete, Mozambique, which have brought a new global limelight to the Sadc regional economy.
These are in juxtaposition to the nearby energy hungry western India just across the Indian Ocean. Then there are the vast natural gas reserves of Mozambique and Tanzania which are reputed to vault the two nations beyond Qatar in the natural gas commerce.

They have gone as far as bringing the Prime Minister Abe on a visit to Mozambique as clean energy conscious Japan seeks new suppliers.
Zimbabwe and South Africa have lock hold monopoly on the world’s largest platinum reserves at a time the catalytic metal is facing rising demand for ever cleaner, low carbon emission engines as well  as for the fuel cells for electric vehicles.

For good measure Ambassador Mutsvangwa cited the US$3 billion Darwendale platinum mine launched in Zimbabwe courtesy of Russian investment as he delivered his speech.

He projected that Zimbabwe would in future process the platinum and produce catalytic converters, which are vital in vehicle production.
Zimbabwe has emerged as leading player in the global rough diamond supply trade joining other Sadc players like Botswana, Angola, South Africa and DR Congo.

He pointed out the Zim-Asset prospects of cutting and polishing that could take advantage of the county’s well educated and highly artistic human resources.
On the diamond reserves in Sadc, and Zimbabwe in particular, Ambassador Mutsvangwa noted the need for beneficiation, as outlined in Zim-Asset.

There are also the coal and the coal bed methane gas, the iron ore, chrome and nickel for steel production.
“The still under farmed African grasslands are highly fertile and can furnish food security to the emerging middle class of China, India and other emergent economy populous regions. We need to open up new crop production and the attendant agro-processing industries to target these huge markets,” added Ambassador Mutsvangwa.

Ambassador Mutsvangwa urged the Zimbabwe Diaspora to become ambassadors of Zimbabwe and use their new home stations to broker economic deals for the benefit of the mother country.

He highlighted that he was working on the setting up of the Norton Special Economic Zone modelled along the lines of Shenzhen in China. He was inviting British business acumen to come and partner in this exciting venture that will equally break new ground in Zimbabwe’s economic development.

Ambassador Mutsvangwa concluded by noting that MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai had come to Chatham House to request for assistance to get political power in Zimbabwe.

“One of our citizens was here some weeks ago with a long shopping list of demands to the UK political establishment to ONCE AGAIN try to hoist him on to political office in Harare.

“I come from President Mugabe and his popular Zanu-PF party.
“We do not burden friends and partners with such awkward, embarrassing and unrealisable requests. Such power should only come from the people of Zimbabwe. Instead we proffer an honest invitation to join us in doing business. We place a high premium on British global business acumen,” he said.

In the question-and-answer segment, the Lesotho High Commissioner to the UK, Mrs Felleng Mamakeka Makeka congratulated Zimbabwe for assuming the Chair of SADC and urged for speedy solutions to break the ongoing political impasse in Lesotho. Ambassador Mutsvangwa emphasised that Lesotho has always been a close friend and ally of Zimbabwe.

A delegation led by President Mugabe was pre-occupied with the issue and was huddling with fellow SADC leaders on the in South Africa.
He emphasised that “SADC is a paragon of peace democracy and stability.”

The Lesotho High Commissioner also asked if the UK could play any role in breaking the impasse in her country. Ambassador Mutsvangwa said SADC was jealously confident of its diplomatic capabilities and would be averse to any form of political intervention by the UK or any other outsider.

“Our home-grown SADC diplomatic solution is the best. Zimbabwe’s experience is that outside solutions are not good. They just lack local sensitivities and nuances. We would rather exhaust our capacities without outside intervention.

Of course we are totally opposed to any outside military intervention. We do have room for outsiders though. It is in the domain of economic and business cooperation.
The second coming of the City of London to Africa must be an economic one, without any trappings of neo-colonialism,” he said.

A member of the UK Business Council for Africa, Dr Jonathan Lawley, stated that he had helped to supervise Zimbabwe’s 1980 elections and watched the country grow thereafter.

“There was a good business delegation from Zimbabwe that came to the UK in January this year. We also work closely with the Zimbabwe Embassy in London to encourage investment in Zimbabwe. I am passionate about getting closer relations between Zimbabwe and the UK. Zimbabwe is on its way again and will fulfil its potential. We need real action to do the right things. Look to yourselves and do not blame anyone else,” urged Dr Lawley.

Ambassador Mutsvangwa pointed out to Dr Lawley that the UK relationship with Zimbabwe had begun with “imperial rape”  which has since morphed into a normal marriage of equals.

“We shared a history which started with rape, but both parents now have a adult children.
“The onus is now on us to normalise that relationship. A word of advice we need to engender a quite discreet environment to quietly work through our difficult issues out of the public care and its attendant pressures of losing face or gaining advantage.

“Harare and London need to provide such an enabling environment. I want to assure that there is a genuine commitment from Zimbabwe to normalise things.”
“I have known President Mugabe for 40 years. He is very much on top of the situation.

“For added assurance, Zimbabwe has a resolute capacity to deal with any pertinent aspects of any outstanding issues. That way we also create the congenial atmosphere for our business communities to engage,” said Ambassador Mutsvangwa.

Claire Freeth, from the Mike Campbell Foundation, opined that foreign investment to Zimbabwe was low and queried Zimbabwe’s indigenisation and land reform programmes and the dissolution of the former SADC Tribunal.

“Is there a plan for the rule of law and respect for property rights in Zimbabwe?” Freeth asked.
However, Ambassador Mutsvangwa highlighted that indigenisation and land reform should be no barriers to investing in Zimbabwe.
President Mugabe is also seized with aspects of the law that may unnecessarily militate against attracting foreign direct investment.

“Any gripes on indigenisation and rule of law should of necessity be applicable in a universal FDI ecosystem. After all the nature of capital is the same whether it be from London, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai or Mumbai.

“I cannot underscore the importance of bilateral dialogue to get help attain best practices. For example, the Norton Special Economic Zone would provide special incentives and tax holidays that bypass existing regulations,” the Deputy Foreign Minister said.

On the dissolution of the SADC Tribunal, Ambassador Mutsvangwa argued that this was done in the best interests of the region.
“The other 14 SADC countries would not just follow Zimbabwe for no good reason. Unless you want to say that the 14 other members are dummies of Zimbabwe.  Post colonial relations can easily be bedevilled by the baggage of history. We need to resolve such historical issues without rubbing each other the wrong way,” Ambassador Mutsvangwa cautioned.

Other members of the audience asked Ambassador Mutsvangwa on the problems in eastern DRC, the external debt and power generation in Zimbabwe, the Ebola crisis and United States/Africa relations.
Regarding the DRC, Ambassador Mutsvangwa noted that Africa’s position was that colonial borders must be respected. He noted that Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, Russ Feingold, was currently in the DRC attending to these concerns.

Regarding Zimbabwe’s debt payments, Ambassador Mutsvangwa explained that Zimbabwe was repaying old debts due to China in order to get more funds, including some which are being used to build new power stations.

“Debt is nothing compared to developing our capacity. But we will move away from loans and instead seek equity from investors who share in the risk. We must from debt to equity as the vehicle of development.

“Through Chinese investment in Zimbabwe’s tobacco sector, some US$670 million went into the hands of peasant and communal farmers this year. We need a similar business engagement from the UK, the EU the USA and the West with Zimbabwe?” Ambassador Mutsvangwa  proffered.

Regarding the power sector, Ambassador Mutsvangwa highlighted that the Southern Africa Power Pool creates a seamless regional market for power, covering the whole SADC region from the DRC to South Africa.

He called for investors to help Zimbabwe become a low-cost power low the national cost of production and enhance business global competitiveness.
On Zimbabwe’s relations with the United States, Ambassador Mutsvangwa was hopeful for a détente.

“I hope Zimbabwe and Britain can go together to Washington and surprise the USA Administration and Congress with a joint request them to repeal ZDERA and all the Executive sanctions. Let us surprise the world in a big bang manner,” he said.

A final question was asked on what legacy Zimbabwe wishes to leave during its SADC chairmanship.
Ambassador Mutsvangwa reiterated the theme of beneficiation and value addition.

“Our main agenda is beneficiation. We will have a Summit dedicated to that issue. The City of London and under the aegis of the her majesty’s Government in conjunction with business advocacy groups like the Business Council for Africa, could work on ideas and proposals to realise this industrialisation agenda,” he concluded.

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  • Truth seeker

    Aye…let’s hope Zimbabwe succeeds, for the sake of the future.