President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s six months in power has witnessed a flurry of deals between the government and foreign investors, but none of the touted investments have been unpacked to prove that Zimbabwe is really open for business.
Infact, there is an emerging pattern where Mnangagwa’s government is rushing to sign the so-called mega deals without doing due diligence, including checking the background of the companies and individuals behind them.
The government claims the investment commitments now stand at $16 billion over the last six months, but no one knows how much of that investment is guaranteed.
Investigations done by the media so far indicate that some of the companies that have signed mining deals worth billions neither have the technology nor the financial resources to roll out the projects.
One deal that has raised eyebrows is the partnership between the Higher and Tertiary Education ministry and Nkosikhona Holdings of South Africa worth $5,2 billion.
According to government, the project will see Zimbabwe producing over eight million litres of liquid fuels per day from coal in Hwange’s Lisulu area.
However, a simple search on the internet shows that Nkosikhona Holdings is not a recognised player in South Africa’s energy sector and it is a company without a traceable track record in the neighbouring country’s economy.
Nkosikhona Holdings was only registered in 2013 and curiously there are no stories about its activities in that country so far.
Eddie Cross, one of the few senior opposition politicians that were willing to give Mnangagwa a chance because of the president’s perceived business-friendly approach to politics, is quoted elsewhere in today’s paper saying the coal deal is one of those where the government made serious mistakes.
He points out that the coal in Lisulu is not suitable for the type of project proposed by Nkosikhona Holdings. Cross said the only coal deposits that suit the liquid fuels proposition are in Sengwa, which are under the control of Rio Tinto.
Mines minister Winston Chitando could not shed any light when he was pressed to reveal more information about the project, telling our journalist to wait for the official launch of the project next month.
Meanwhile, a story published in the Mail&Guardian of South Africa last week showed how a European company that was being investigated for allegedly corrupting politicians in West Africa in order to get contracts had also taken advantage of the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.
The mining firm is one of those “investors” that have signed multimillion dollar deals with the government.
Zimbabweans do not have any information on how the deals were structured or whether they will benefit from the exploitation of the country’s natural resources.
The worrying signs from these hastily arranged deals are that the new government’s desperation to prove that it is different from that of former president Robert Mugabe is opening the country to speculators.
There is also a danger of the government mortgaging natural resources without involving the real owners of these assets, who are ordinary Zimbabweans.
It is high time civil society and opposition parties demanded accountability before the implementation of these highly suspicious deals.