Serious investors the world over could have been scared away by President Robert Mugabe’s recent announcement at the just-ended Zanu PF’s 11th national people’s conference in Mutare, Manicaland, that the revolutionary party would take over companies, 100%, which are foreign-owned in retaliation to sanctions or restrictive measures as the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, would say.
President Mugabe’s statements were unfortunate given that being the head of state, his word is taken as policy, thus threatening to wrest foreign-owned firms has now been accepted and soon we are bound to see Zanu PF sycophants doing what they know best under such circumstances.
If these sentiments had come from a junior minister, then many would have been sceptical but given that it came from the head of state, it is anticipated as the next move and has already sent chills down the spines of many investors.
Investors are justified to think so given the history of the controversial land reform programme where farmers were chased off the land with no compensation.
President Mugabe’s statements are self-defeating, especially if one considers how many investment forums were held since the consummation of the government of national unity to stabilise a haemorrhaging economy which witnessed inflation reach astronomical heights.
The President, alongside his rivals in the shaky coalition, religiously attended all investment forums held in the country, including the World Economic Forum held in Tanzania this year and to suddenly make a volte-face and say something that scares away investors with a bogeyman of uncertainty boggles the mind.
What will President Mugabe say at the next investment forum and will investors take him seriously?
What should be driven home to President Mugabe and Zanu PF is that in a global environment, investors talk to each other regularly and it would be folly to think that the Chinese, known to be long on trade but short on investment, do not read the same message.
The Chinese also take a cue from Western investors and only differ on certain issues but the principle on investment remains the same, be it oriental, from Europe or the United States of America.
The Chinese may also get frightened and pack their bags and go elsewhere, where their investment would be safe.
Let’s not take Chinese investors for granted. They are not fools.