HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsComment: Govt must keep its word not to re-arrest returned businessmen

Comment: Govt must keep its word not to re-arrest returned businessmen

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Zimbabwe has such an abundance of exiled successful businessmen that the country is yearning for their return to help revive the economy.

The shaky unity government has to some extent stabilised the economy after years of hyper-inflation and economic decline.

Investment opportunities in Zimbabwe are abundant and conducive for every business interest.

As a country, the problem has been the authorities’ tendency to trample on individual and property rights.

It is the duty of every Zimbabwean to help rebuild the nation and the government knows it must make the business environment free.

Many businessmen are keen to come back home to invest and help revive the country’s sagging economic fortunes.

Nevertheless, many of them are unnerved by past specification and reconstruction orders on their profitable companies by the state.

We hope the return of Mutumwa Mawere on Tuesday after six years in exile will allay fears that all other businessmen in a club of state-condemned corporate leaders could return to rebuild the country. Mawere undoubtedly arrived home to find his business empire in ruins, and so will the others.

But it is the withdrawal of the charges that has prepared strong legal ground for Mawere to fight the disputed annexation of SMM Holdings by the state in 2004 through a reconstruction order issued in terms of section 4 of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Reconstruction of the state-indebted and solvent companies regulation.

Those still at large include former Intermarket Holdings boss Nicholas Vingirai, Barbican Holdings founder Mthuli Ncube, NMB Holdings’ Julius Makoni and prominent Telecel shareholder James Makamba.

Trust Holdings boss William Nyemba was the first to test the waters of freedom when he returned to negotiate the revival of Trust Bank, which was forcibly disbanded and merged into the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG) by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe the same year.

He has since reclaimed his bank. We are aware that in February, the two Home Affairs co-ministers travelled to South Africa to assure exiled businessmen they would not be arrested on return. We hope the government will keep its word, and that the Nyemba and Mawere cases will prove that.

Several businessmen have experienced difficulties with the government.

They have been “specified” which means their companies have been taken over by government-appointed administrators after they were accused of illegal activities.

But the controversial specification law has been used by some individuals with political connections to raid profitable companies.

It is also our hope that these businessmen will not be re-arrested on flimsy charges just to spite them, because then that will scare aware potential investors, in the form of all Zimbabweans in the diaspora.

We believe that the specification in itself discourages investment.

Government must walk the talk by supporting these businesspeople to relaunch their businesses in a free and fair environment, and without prejudice.

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