Mixed signals ward off SA investors

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South African businesses have a keen interest in investing in Zimbabwe, but mixed signals coming from the inclusive government and the haphazard implementation of the indigenisation policy could put them off.

The submission of South Africa-based Impala Platinum Mines to the country’s demand to hand over a 51% stake to locals has been cited as one of the major reasons why investment could dry up.

Impala Platinum Holdings and the government on Tuesday reached an agreement to issue 10% of Zimplats shares to a Community Trust.

Another 10% would be sold to an employee share ownership trust for the benefit of all full-time Zimplats employees.

The company will also make available for sale to the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Fund a 31% fully contributory stake for cash at an independently determined fair value.

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) executive director of trade policy Gus Mandigora told NewsDay on the sidelines of the South African Institute of International Affairs trade workshop on Wednesday there was a lot of anxiety within business with regards to the investment climate in Zimbabwe.

Busa is the apex body of business in South Africa with a membership of 66 associations, 63 corporate members and several chambers of commerce.

“There is still a lot of interest to do business, but uncertainty over policy is causing a lot of anxiety,” Mandigora said.

“Those companies that have not yet invested have begun to adopt a wait-and-see attitude”.

He said the demand that companies hand-over controlling stakes meant that investors would not be in a position to take decisions and this was considered a huge ask.

Mandigora noted companies interested in investing in Zimbabwe should be made aware of laws and expectations before they start operating so they could make a decision on whether to invest or not.

“Indigenisation is a strategic decision the government took,” he said.

“What is needed is clarity, the message should be clear not confusing.”

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told Parliament on Tuesday investors he met at a recent investment promotion conference in Gauteng, South Africa, were worried about the ongoing doublespeak on policy issues.

“It was clear from the discussions with investors that our toxic politics and mixed messages from the same government will remain a major impediment in efforts to bring and lure meaningful investment to Zimbabwe,” Tsvangirai said.

“We are sometimes our own worst enemy because of the mixed signals that emanate from within the executive.”

Tsvangirai said a meeting with concerned ministries was being organised to address the matter, adding government had no policy to nationalise companies.

“We can differ as political parties, but on the essential aspects that affect future investment and job prospects for Zimbabweans, we must speak with one voice,” he added.