PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has signalled that he was prepared to work with “troublesome” civil society groups, describing them as a necessary evil whose noise has helped the ruling Zanu PF to retain power since independence in 1980.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
Speaking during an African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) plenary session in Kigali, Rwanda, yesterday, Mnangagwa said: “Civil society has role to play. Yes, sometimes they offend governments by pointing out wrongs that they do, but it’s necessary that those things be pointed out so that we can correct them. For us to remain in power, we must continuously correct the things that civil society says we are doing wrong and we remain ruling and ruling for more years.”
Mnangagwa is among several Heads of State and government attending the ACFTA in Rwanda to increase business cooperation among African countries.
The Zanu PF-led government had in the past maintained a negative perception on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), labelling them as agents of Western imperialists bent on effecting regime change.
So bad were the relations that police and other State security agents kept several NGOs under surveillance, including disrupting public meetings and arresting their leaders, particularly during former President Robert Mugabe’s era.
Mnangagwa, who took over the reins of power in November last year after Mugabe succumbed to military and public pressure, told delegates at the continental business forum that over $500 million which was illegally siphoned out of the country has since been brought back, with more yet to come.
“I am only three months in office and we discovered that something like $1,4 billion had gone out illegally… by yesterday nearly $600 million had been brought back, the balance I think is still in the process of coming back,” he said.
The ACFTA will seek to open borders for African countries to engage in free trade without the hassle of customs duties and embargoes, which other countries believe were a threat to smaller economies.
Mnangagwa said, Zimbabwe despite being a small economy, was ready to embrace the ACFTA, saying the country was ready to leap-frog other nations by creating a conducive environment for business.
“Capital is very sensitive it goes where it feels comfortable, whether an economy is big or small like Zimbabwe, but the economic environment is comfortable for capital, it will come. For Zimbabwe, which has been under sanctions for 18 years, we have to leapfrog other developing countries so we have to create an environment where capital must feel comfortable,” he said.
Speaking at the same plenary session, Infotech Investment group chief executive, Ali Mufuruki of Tanzania, urged African countries to ensure that ACFTA worked, saying it did not affect sovereignty.
“You can eat from free trade, but you cannot eat from sovereignty,” he said.
He warned that attempts by governments to police borders and movement of money was archaic and could not hold in the new information highway.