Mugabe’s Industrial Ruins

At the Africa-Asia summit, President Mugabe spoke high sounding words about joint ventures for manufacturing globally competitive products. This is a man whose country imports everything including toothpicks. What is a toothpick if not merely a matchstick with two sharp ends?

This week Mugabe hosts the Sadc summit on industrialisation. The IMF has rubbished Zimbabwe’s 2,8% economic growth projection and, instead, forecasts a shrink in the economy. In fact, for government to mobilize necessary resources for the Sadc summit, we passed around a begging bowl. Mugabe’s broke government solicited donations from what little industries still remain operational. The desperate plea to the struggling private sector included cash, 2000 litres of orange juice concentrate, bottled water, golf shirts, roundneck T-shirts,26000 litres of petrol, 16000 litres of diesel, 150 sets of chauffeur uniforms, 50 sets of uniform for liaison officers and 50 costumes for ushers. To call these ‘donations’ is merely out of convention. ‘Shakedown’ is more appropriate. When Zanu (PF) asks for financial assistance, there is a veiled threat beneath the request.

Once regarded as the gem of Africa, Zimbabwe seldom receives mention as an investment destination. The key stumbling blocks to any growth are Mugabe’s indigenisation policy, massive corruption, an atrocious human rights record and poor international credit rating. Zimbabwe’s industrial areas may as well swop signposts for headstones. Several companies have either shut down or now operate at below 30% of capacity, compared to 1999. Even state owned industries – Arda, Zupco, CSC, GMB – which at one point held a monopoly in their respective sectors, are either dead or struggling.

Robert Mugabe hosting a summit on industrialisation? Hyenas will soon host a summit on goat farming.

Till next week, my pen is capped.

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