Mugabe Surprise Show At Investment Meeting

Mugabe dismissed investor worries over new ownership laws which are designed to ensure that black Zimbabweans hold a stake of at least 51% in all companies and which have strained the unity government.

“People have said it will drive away investment. We say it won’t,” Mugabe said at the World Economic Forum for Africa.

“Companies have been forthcoming … I don’t think it’s a painful thing for them. Forty-nine percent is a lot,” he told reporters.

Mugabe took the stage at the World Economic Forum for Africa with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, an old rival who joined him in a unity government last year, and Arthur Mutambara, the third member of the coalition.

Zimbabwe’s economy grew last year for the first time in a decade after the scrapping of a near worthless local currency and the political agreement.

In Harare, Zimbabwe’s Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube told Reuters in an interview Mugabe had rejected bids by foreign steel firms wanting to take over the country’s grounded state-owned steelmaker because they “too big”.

Ncube said Mugabe preferred to deal with medium-sized firms.

Western countries are withholding aid to push for faster political reform and there has been no major inflow of foreign investment because of the continuing uncertainty over the government and its policies.

“Zimbabwe is ready to do business. If Africa’s time has come for investment, then Zimbabwe cannot miss the boat,” Tsvangirai said at the meeting, which has highlighted Africa’s relatively rapid emergence from the global downturn.

“The political crisis does no longer exist. The country is making progress and it’s time that investors started looking at Zimbabwe from a different perspective. So that is the message we have been communicating.”

Tsvangirai stressed that discussion was continuing on the empowerment law and its application.

Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai reiterated appeals for an end to Western sanctions targeting the 86-year-old leader and his closest aides. He has ruled since independence in 1980 and is accused by critics of ruining the country.

“It doesn’t make sense that people from the same government are not able to travel because of the travel ban,” Tsvangirai said. Reuters