By Sij Ncube
HARARE, 1 September, 2015 – PROPOSED multi-million dollar investments into Zimbabwe’s mining and power generation sectors by Nigerian business magnet, Aliko Dangote, created a lot of hype in the Zanu (PF) controlled state media, with intimations his investment could be the panacea to Harare’s economic quagmire.
Dangote, who has business interest across Africa in several sectors including manufacturing and logistics, met President Robert Mugabe Monday amid pomp and ceremony in which he pledged to build the biggest cement–manufacturing plant in Zimbabwe, with a capacity to produce about 1, 5 million tonnes per annum.
He said the projects would start early next year as long as Mugabe’s administration fast-tracked the necessary paper work.
“We are sending our team next week and hopefully if things go well, we would be ready to put the biggest cement plant which is a million and half tones, so we will look into this. We’ve already decided to invest into Zimbabwe. That’s why we are here. Any country were you see us visiting it means, yes, we’ve decided to invest,” said Dangote.
The envisaged investment has been feted in Zanu (PF) circles, including the state media, as one of the major steps towards the revival of the country’s comatose economy to be implemented under the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset).
But Dangote’s proposed investment has solicited mixed views from across the country’s political divide.
Critics of Mugabe and Zanu(PF) are adamant it’s a side-show intended to divert attention from the apparent failure to find a solution to the prevailing economic meltdown, more two years after Mugabe’s controversial re-election in July 2013, noting that Dangote is not the first billionaire to “walk the streets of Harare.”
The state media claim Dangote would pump billions into the economy, an assertion critics dismiss as the typical feel-good propaganda that Zimbabweans have been fed on.
“Clearly, it is more telling for a single investor to capture the attention of the whole nation. Imagine how many headline stories our neighbours will be having were they to celebrate such,” commented Nhlanhla Ngwenya, the national director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa.
Former Welshman Ncube’s party spokesperson Nhlanhla Dube, noting that the “mega” deals phenomenon is upon the country, said he is quickly reminded of Essar deal to revive former steel- manufacturing giant Ziscosteel which was signed, sealed and delivered by Indian investors but never implemented.
“It is all hype and propaganda,” said Dube. “The propaganda sadly is always in everything we do. It was the same with farms. It continued to community share ownership schemes and even the packaging of ZimAsset as a self-propelling vehicle to prosperity.”
Other critics have raised questions on other previous so-called mega deals, particularly the billion dollar projects signed with Russia last year, saying Mugabe’s government is always promising Zimbabweans false hope at a time the generality of the population is wallowing in poverty.
Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for the MDC Renewal Team, said history would record that Mugabe and Zanu (PF) have hounded out of Zimbabwe astute businessmen and women, particularly naming Strive Masiyiwa, the founder of Econet Wireless, the country’s biggest mobile service operator.
“We are a country that is full of spite over our own people. We have a government of failed businessmen who are jealous and envious of fellow Zimbabweans who have made it. They have hounded all black investors out of the country. Now we hear that Masiyiwa is taking worldwide billionaires to Kenya to invest and their answer is to bring one Nigerian investor,” said Mafume.
“Dangote’s visit is as unspecific as a visit can get. Here is an investor who comes and states he wants to invests billions anywhere and everywhere in the country and does not indicate what he has applied for and where.”
But Zanu (PF) legislator, Psychology Maziwisa, who doubles up as the party’s deputy information director, believes with Dangote’s proposed investments, Zimbabwe is on the move.
“This is a timely and welcome intervention that will help grow the Zimbabwean economy and create the jobs we need,” he said, adding that it comes barely days after Mugabe made a commitment to lure massive foreign direct investment during his state of the nation address.
But others believe Dangote and his team are looking beyond Mugabe.
“To them Mugabe is out of the equation, they are looking into the future and knowing these guys and their money, whoever has asked them to come aboard and promised them safe investment, has to deliver otherwise there will be trouble. We have seen how they work where they have invested in Africa. They are serious about their cash and they follow it,” an African investment analyst based in Tanzania told Radio VOP.