By Richard Chidza/Idah Mhetu
VISITING South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has wasted no time and not minced his words telling his Zimbabwean counterpart President Emmerson Mnangagwa to “get rid of barriers to investment.”
Mnangagwa who came to power on the back of a military coup in November 2017 that brought to a dramatic end former President Robert Mugabe’s 38 year-rule has anchored his administration of a reformist agenda under the policy “Zimbabwe is Open for Business.”
“There are good prospects for both of our countries but there is also a need to ensuring ease of doing business and elimination of trade barriers,” Ramaphosa said at the opening ceremony of the Bi-National Commission (BNC) in Harare early Tuesday.
Ramaphosa said he was encouraged by the “participation of South African investors in banking, retail, mining and services among others” in the Zimbabwean economy.
Among leading South African investors with a huge footprint in Zimbabwe are Impala Platinum, Tongaat Hulett, Pick n Pay and Nedbank.
South Africa is Zimbabwe’s biggest trade partner, with Zimbabwe’s southern neighbour’s banks banks playing a key role in supporting productive sector companies in Zimbabwe. However, concerns have been raised about Zimbabwe’s political will to protect investment amid intermittent disruptions especially in key areas around agriculture.
Most investors remain on the fence demanding that Mnangagwa sorts out policy certainty in order to attract fresh funding and secure current investments.
“South Africa stands ready to render support to Zimbabwe within our means in your quest for economic renewal,” said Ramaphosa. “We should work together to explore issues to deepen our cooperation (and these) include deepening social ties through greater people to people cooperation”.
Mnangagwa is desperate for fresh investment as he battles to bring an ailing economy eft in the mire by Mugabe back on sound footing. Economists say some investors have left owing to a liquidity crunch that is frustrating business executives and investors.
Top South African officials said Ramaphosa will impress upon Mnangagwa in expected closed door sessions the need to uphold property rights and to restore certainty to the currency and economic policy frameworks. Ramaphosa has turned into a key ally of Mnangagwa’s having provided sanctuary to the Zimbabwean leader when he was sacked as Vice President by Mugabe on November 6 2017 before his triumphant return to Harare to assume power two weeks later.
South Africa has led continental and regional calls for the removal of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the US and European Union and recently extended on arguments that Mnangagwa has done little to differentiate his administration from Mugabe’s tattered rights record.
The IMF said last week that the success of Zimbabwe’s currency reforms will depend on the implementation of sound monetary and fiscal policies.
In his opening speech the BNC Mnangagwa said “opportunities for mutually beneficial co-operation and joint ventures are vast” and challenged “private sector players to ride on the goodwill” currently prevailing between the two countries.
He said Zimbabwe is operating in a poisoned environment “due to sanctions.”
Officials claim Zimbabwe and South Africa, have already signed about 45 bi-national agreements, whose implementation will be the subject debate during Ramaphosa’s visit.