ZIMBABWE – Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Patrick Zhuwao has launched a scathing attack on would-be foreign investors, accusing them of wanting to loot the country, press reports said on Thursday.
While most critics of President Robert Mugabe’s government are convinced that the lack of foreign direct investment is a major factor in Zimbabwe’s current economic problems, Zhuwao insisted that this was not the case.
A local private daily quoted the minister, saying: “These foreigners will come here, extract our minerals and take all the profits back to their country.”
While, another daily quoted Zhuwao as saying: “Why should we as Zimbabweans go outside seeking foreigners to build our economy? We do not need a foreigner to sort out our economy, no.”
Analysts say the controversial indigenisation laws scare off many would-be investors. They require all foreign and white business owners to cede 51% of their shares to black Zimbabweans.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Zimbabwe in 2014 was just US$545m, compared to US$4.9bn and US$5.7bn for neighbours Mozambique and South Africa respectively.
As Zimbabwe’s economy slips further into distress, Mugabe and Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa have from time to time suggested that the laws can be tweaked to encourage outside investment. But Zhuwao has taken a hardline stance in public.
Zimbabwe’s Independent newspaper on Thursday led with a report alleging that the minister would soon announce significant changes to the indigenisation act “in a major climbdown”.
The newspaper said the changes had been agreed to “reluctantly”.
Thousands of jobs lost
Newspapers and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) say this year will be a bleak Christmas following the loss of thousands of jobs in the formal economy.
The government is struggling to pay civil servants’ salaries, and Zimbabwe’s teachers have been told that they will only get their pay next week, after Christmas. The main teachers’ union ZIMTA said in a press statement on Thursday that its members were “dejected” and “demotivated”.
There is also rumbling dissatisfaction over a lavish state banquet hosted by Mugabe for ministers, MPs and top ruling party officials on Monday, and news that Mugabe’s family has left on its annual vacation to the Far East.
“Can’t he go vacation in the (Zimbabwean) Eastern Highlands instead of the Far East in the spirit of promoting local tourism,” wrote Zimbabwean @taphizzle on Twitter.
Former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo meantime played down claims of a fresh economic crisis in Zimbabwe, which emerged from eight years of mounting food and cash shortages and hyperinflation in early 2009.
Moyo tweeted: “An economic meltdown? Come on. We are going into 2016 not to 2008. Smell the coffee or remain frozen in the past!”