By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
29 January 2014
The UK has been criticised for giving credence to the disputed 2013 electoral process in Zimbabwe, by hosting a delegation of business leaders, some with links to ZANU PF.
The delegation, which includes some of Zimbabwe’s wealthiest and most influential businessmen, was invited by the Chatham House think tank to be part of a meeting at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London on Tuesday night.
They were greeted by angry demonstrators from the London based protest group, the Zimbabwe Vigil. Coordinator Rose Benton told SW Radio Africa that by giving the delegation a platform, Chatham House was ‘condoning’ the disputed elections in Zimbabwe last July.
“The delegation arrived while we were there, and when they saw us they fled. And our people followed them to the side door (of Chatham House) and shouted at them, because they’re angry. And we’re angry with the British for hosting these people,” Benton said.
She added: “We shouldn’t engage with an illegal regime. By re-engaging we are saying the elections were free and fair and they weren’t. What should happen is a new, free and fair election.”
The business delegation includes former Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Kumbirai Katsande, Douglas Mboweni of Econet, Chamber of Mines president Alex Mhembere, Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe president George Guvamatanga, Agribank chief executive officer Sam Malaba, MIMOSA executive Winston Chitando, African Sun CEO Shingi Munyeza and businessman Shingi Mutasa.
The high-powered business team is being led by current CZI president, Charles Msipa, who is also the managing director of Schweppes Zimbabwe, which was seized from businessman Mutumwa Mawere.
Msipa, the son of ZANU PF politburo member and former Midlands Governor Cephas Msipa, is allegedly also a close ally of former Mines Minister Obert Mpofu.
The London meeting was one stop on the delegation’s European tour, which is aimed at engaging potential investors. Before embarking on the tour Msipa was quoted as saying that a negative perception of Zimbabwe was being perpetuated by ‘skewed’ media coverage, and this was affecting the foreign investment critically needed to help turn the economy around.
“We want to complement government efforts to attract foreign direct investment into Zimbabwe and open dialogue about the country and its potential as an investment destination for Europe,” said Msipa.
Economic analysts have said that ZANU PF’s indigenisation policies, which legalise the 51% takeover of foreign owned firms, is standing in the way of new investment in Zimbabwe. UK based political analyst Clifford Mashiri, who was at the Vigil demonstration on Tuesday, agreed and said the ZANU PF government had a “strange way of doing business.”
“It is a strange arrangement to lure foreigners into the country where 51% of their businesses will be seized. These businessmen may be rich and allegedly apolitical, but they are being used by the regime to sanitise the wrongs committed by the Mugabe government,” Mashiri told SW Radio Africa.