The Interview Lovemore Ranga Mataire
President Mnangagwa is among five Heads of State and Government making their maiden appearances at the 38th Summit of Sadc Heads of State and Government in Windhoek, Namibia. The other four are President Azali Assoumani of the Union of Comoros, Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, Joao Lourenco of Angola and Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa. Our Senior Writer, Lovemore Ranga Mataire (LRM) caught up with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Dr Sibusiso Busi Moyo (SBM) on the sidelines of the Council of Ministers meeting at Safari Hotel in Windhoek, Namibia to get an update on deliberations and possible pointers of the President’s maiden speech.
LRM: I am aware you have been here since the start of the Council of Ministers meeting on August 13. What is your general overview of deliberations that have taken place so far?
SBM: Well, the deliberations cover a wide-range of issues concerning our region. As you are aware, the theme of the conference is to do with infrastructure development and youth empowerment. Infrastructure development and empowerment are critical components in the re-industrialisation of the region. All the issues point to regional integration, development and stability of the region. The point is that the industrialisation strategy of the region is best hinged on key enablers — infrastructure development and youth empowerment. Infrastructure development creates jobs and that’s why even in Zimbabwe we are in sync and consistent with the Sadc development agenda, which really focuses on infrastructure development.
LRM: Minister, industrialisation has always been the major talking point in the region. What in your view have been the major impediments towards the creation of an industrialised region?
SBM: What is important is that there are key low hanging fruits we need to harness and adopt. These key hanging fruits are to do with free movement of people and goods and services. Even the interconnectivity in terms of telephone companies: there shouldn’t be this roaming. Talking to someone in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa or any other country in the region must be automatic because that creates ease of doing business.
LRM: Are you not having a consensus on those issues on these “key hanging fruits”?
SBM: No, no it has been slow but that’s exactly what we have been discussing. Member-states must now move and reposition Sadc within the reintegration agenda as it has always been the leader of all other sub-regions. There is no need for this region to remain and drag behind the development and integration process which it was actually leading. One area we need to focus on is tourism.
Why should we market Namibia on its own, Zimbabwe on its own and South Africa on its own? Why don’t we present a total package of marketing the region so that a tourist comes into Namibia and doesn’t need a visa to go to any of the countries in the region? And whatever the tourist does, he spends money in each of these destinations. So these are the issues that were being debated so that we can find each other through consensus.
LRM: You are attending this summit representing a country on the verge of ushering in a Second Republic. What are your expectations as a country and how do you intend to play your role as an equal player of the regional bloc? Some expected Zimbabwe to be on the summit agenda because of what happened on August 1.
SBM: Management of perception and reality are two different things. Sadc works on reality and not on social media, not on perceptions generated by certain people who are developing narratives about a specific country. Zimbabwe is ready to play its part not as an agenda item, but as a driver of this region so that the region becomes what it is supposed to be. We are saying Zimbabwe was never an issue at this summit. In fact, our expectations are that as we usher in a Second Republic, we are going to be playing our role in terms of developing our country and ensuring that the ease of doing business is not only in Zimbabwe, but that the region will be a desirable destination for investors and tourists.
LRM: President Mnangagwa is one of five regional Heads of State to deliver a maiden speech at the summit. Any pointers of the issues the President is likely to focus on?
SBM: The President is expected to brief his colleagues on the developments back home and articulate his own vision for the region.
LRM: Where are we in terms of aligning ourselves with the summit theme of youth empowerment and infrastructure development?
SBM: This is exactly what the President has always been articulating. Youth empowerment is derived from creation of jobs and jobs come as a result of investments by those with resources who must deploy their resources so that it generates more money. We need to create a conducive environment for both domestic and foreign direct investment.
That’s why the President launched the Youth and Women Banks so that youths can be empowered not to get jobs only, but also to access funding so that they commercialise their innovations and get capital to fund their projects.
LRM: What can you say to those who say the violence that took place on August 1 has reversed the gains achieved in re-engaging with the international community?
SBM: Let me assure you that the President, his Cabinet and the entire new dispensation actually regret the incident of the 1st of August because that is not characteristic of the Zimbabwe we know. The Zimbabwe we want is the one that demonstrated itself on July 30. What came out of August 1 is not the Zimbabwe we want. It has never been part of our embedded values because we are not a violent people. We treasure life of all Zimbabweans.
Having said that, events of one day cannot characterise and paint the whole nation with a black paint. There are a lot of countries with their own challenges in the world. Yes we accept it us a hump that slows us down but after getting over it we regain our speed. We are saying we are still seized with the re-engagement process that we had undertaken several months ago so that we reposition the product we call Zimbabwe as an attractive product.
LRM: Lastly, are there any reversals or cancellation of agreed investment deals because of the August 1 incident?
SBM: I am not aware of any reversals or cancellations of agreements. Instead, there are serious inquiries from the whole global village from companies keen to invest in Zimbabwe.
You know what’s the situation in Zimbabwe is very peaceful. It was just one incident and we, therefore, believe that the impetus which we had undertaken and the speed at which we were moving is going to be regained so that we move on with our lives again.