One of Robert Mugabe’s cabinet ministers lost his temper with a British Lord visiting Zimbabwe as part of a foreign investment group last week, after he asked who might succeed the president, who celebrates his 91st birthday next week.
The group was in Zimbabwe on a mission organised by a British group, Invest Africa, aimed at boosting Zimbabwe’s struggling economy.
After the meeting at his office in Harare, Ignatius Chombo, the local government minister, told the Zimbabwe state broadcaster: “We had some unpleasant disagreements when they wanted to refer to succession in our own country. So I told them who we vote for is our business and not theirs.”
Lord St John of Bletso (Rex)
Lord St John of Bletso, who asked the succession question, insisted that any business looking to invest in Zimbabwe needed information about the country’s political future. He said clarity on Zanu PF’s “indigenisation” policy, which stipulates that black Zimbabweans own 51 per cent of all foreign companies, was also essential.
“You must understand that if we are going to write cheques we didn’t then want to be challenged,” the peer is said to have told Mr Chombo.
Raya Hubbell, chief operating officer of Invest Africa, said he was “surprised” Mr Chombo had briefed the media about the closed-doors meeting.
“Later on he changed his rhetoric after meeting an investor in disaster relief and social housing developments who has built tens of thousands of housing units in South America,” he said. “Mr Chombo was so impressed he left the meeting with our man and took him to show him a couple of potential sites for low cost housing.”
Ms Hubbell said that despite the row, the 22-strong delegation, from a total of 11 countries, remain interested in Zimbabwean investment opportunities.
Another member of the British group said they had a “relaxed” and frank meeting with recently-appointed vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man several analysts say is most likely to succeed Mr Mugabe.
“Mr Mnangagwa was so different to Mr Chombo. He spoke about succession and admitted that lessons had been learned about the way of enforcing indigenisation We found him to be forward thinking and much more clear and honest,” he said.
Mr Mugabe regularly tells his supporters that Zimbabwe “will never be a colony again” and says that the British have undemocratically tried to oust him from power since independence in 1980.