By Shingirai Vambe
Victoria Falls – Temba Mliswa, the outspoken legislator for Norton Constituency, called upon the Government of Zimbabwe, Industry, and Commerce to uphold the truth, respect the constitution, and fulfill their mandated responsibilities. Mliswa made these remarks as a guest at the recently concluded Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) annual congress held at Elephant Hills resort in Victoria Falls.
Compared to previous years, the attendance at the congress was disappointingly low due to several factors, including high participation fees of US$2150 for members and US$2350 for non-members.
Mliswa emphasized the importance of the presence of accounting officers, as well as the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Sekai Nzenza, who was represented by Dr. Douglas Runyowa, at such forums. He viewed this platform as the ideal opportunity to honestly communicate the true state of trade within the country to the government. The issue of Statutory Instruments, which was discussed at the 2022 ZNCC annual congress, once again took center stage this year. The congress highlighted the inconsistencies surrounding the currency and related policies.
Regarding this matter, Mliswa referred to the 2022 congress resolutions and remarked on the weaknesses of parliament. He stated, “The issue is not Parliament itself; Parliament has a Legal Committee responsible for reviewing every Statutory Instrument. This committee is chaired by Hon. Samkange and comprises two other members from ZANU PF and two members from the opposition. Given the numbers, we should not expect any action from the ruling ZANU PF members.”
Mliswa further expressed concerns about the prevailing inconsistencies, stating, “The elephant in the room is the inconsistencies. I, along with Hon. Tendai Biti, have raised this issue. The government must set the tone, but it is the primary contributor to the high inflation rates we witness, which are not factored into civil servants’ salaries. We have a shadow currency that the government follows. So why pay workers with a cushioning allowance when our local currency is strong?”
He also criticized the lack of value for money across all sectors for consumers. Edwin Mapfumo, Director of Every Instrument Company, stated during an interview that he saw no reason for his organization to join the ZNCC due to this absence of value. Additionally, the Consumer Protection Commission, speaking to the Post On Sunday Newspaper, revealed plans to investigate issuers and recipients of business awards and accolades, as they appear to lack merit.
Some individuals, speaking anonymously, expressed their frustration over the past five years, characterizing it as a period filled with empty promises amidst hunger and dissatisfaction. They compared the chamber unfavorably to the CEO Africa RoundTable, regarding it as a profit-driven scheme. Mliswa highlighted that as a nation, celebrating 43 years of independence while relying on infrastructure established by the Rhodesian Government is problematic.
He stated, “We are heading into an election with empty stomachs. The biggest opposition to ZANU PF is not a political party but ZANU PF itself, with its economic and internal issues. That is where the real opposition lies. It will be interesting to see why they continue with development when civil servants’ salaries are inadequate. Being in power means doing what is right for the people.”
Mliswa also addressed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), which was a significant topic of discussion at the congress. He praised it as a positive step towards rural development through enhanced market opportunities and trade. However, he emphasised the need for effective implementation, as rural communities are entering the election period with frustration and anger.
Investments in that regard, require policies that attract both local and foreign investors. during the conference, the issue of giving incentives was said to be problematic if Zimbabwe regard itself as a mineral rich country. compared to other countries, there is no reason to give incentives if the economy is ticking.
The Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA) CEO, Tafadzwa Chinhamo echoed the same sentiments as they are registering 10 investors every week.
Chinhamo highlighted 3 issues, resources, markets and effeciency as key areas to focus on, in response to the AfCFTA thrust.
“The environment should be conducive. The Statutory Instruments complicate the business environment as some conflict with each other. There is a need to align these,” Chinamo said.
“As long as we don’t fix our environment, it will be difficult for us. We must be clear on which investors we are trying to attract. Incentives should have a sunset close, which is not available in existing incentives. There is also a need for public evaluation of previous incentives to see where we went wrong and correct the situation in order for the much-needed capital,” added Chinhamo.
The group CEO of Old Mutual Zimbabwe, Sam Matsekete said incentives for investments was a big issue.