PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has said it will soon fast-track paperwork for construction of an upmarket hotel for his business partners from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and ensure extension of visas for UAE investors at point of entry as the two countries strengthen their relations.
BY MOSES MATENGA
Local analysts have, however, raised eyebrows over the concessions, saying top government officials could have taken the Dubai route for personal gain.
Mnangagwa’s government has already dispatched an ambassador to the UAE to strengthen bilateral relations at a time the Zanu PF leader, who came into office two years ago, has been globe-trotting on a private jet ostensibly “donated” to him from the enclave.
Acting Information minister Nqobizithat Mangaliso Ndlovu confirmed last week that government had approved appointment of Zimbabwe’s first ambassador to the oil-rich nation.
Ndlovu, who is the country’s Tourism minister, said there was a plan to build hotel infrastructure in Zimbabwe to specifically cater for UAE nationals.
“We are planning on hotel infrastructure to cater for their religion and that is under serious consideration,” he said.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube yesterday defended preferential treatment extended to UAE investors, saying the oil-rich country was Zimbabwe’s second largest export destination after South Africa, and deserved such concessions.
“There is walking the talk with the promises and agreements we had with the United Arab Emirates. When Cyclone Idai struck, remember we were in the UAE and they came in to assist us. They follow up the processes and, as we speak, someone from the UAE is already in the country as part of the advance team. Whether we like it or not, they are the second largest exporter after South Africa. It is a large trading partner we cannot ignore,” Ncube said.
Cabinet on Thursday was briefed on Mnangagwa’s visit to the UAE, where he met the country’s leaders, including the Prime Minister and Vice-President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Mnangagwa took with him a delegation that included 25 businesspeople.
Relations between Mnangagwa and the UAE have been subject to scrutiny, especially after reports that the President was using a private jet he allegedly was hiring at huge cost from Dubai.
Mnangagwa earlier this year sought to explain the story behind the jet, saying: “I was invited by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed. He hosted us well. You hear people saying I flew with a luxury jet. Those are lies, they sent us a plane.
“We did not pay anything for that plane. The crown prince sent the aeroplane to pick us up and we went and it dropped us. I told him we had a problem with availability of planes, and he said whenever I want to travel, all I need to do is call.”
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Sifelani Jabangwe said he was hopeful that such deals would benefit the nation and not the foreigners and a few local elites.
“What is more important is how these deals will be structured. They must be structured in a manner that benefits Zimbabweans,” he said.
“Local content in such deals is key because it will leave benefits to Zimbabweans. In whatever way they are coming to invest, we hope they will not be like the Chinese who bring in their labourers and their equipment.”
Analyst Rashweat Mukundu said there was need for government to be clear and transparent in such deals, adding that without such, there was reason to suspect dodgy deals.
“Some of the Middle East countries are not known for doing business in a transparent manner and these are countries that tend to manage business deals using underhand methods, moreso, bribing the top leadership and benefiting in whatever manner,” he said.
“So, my fear is that the coming in of the Arab investors outside the legal framework of investment in Zimbabwe, outside the publicity of what is it that they will be doing, the logical conclusion is those deals are shady and will not necessarily benefit Zimbabwe, but a few of our political leaders who are in talks with the investors from the United Arab Emirates.
“It is in the interest of the Zimbabwean government that any business deals be done in the open so that they build confidence in other potential investors.
“To me, it is a clear indication that our political leaders are either being corrupted, being naïve or are benefiting at a personal level and not necessarily looking at investment as a national benefit.”