HARARE – One of Zimbabwe’s most successful businesspersons, Strive Masiyiwa, has made a rare public comment on the country’s political and economic situation — describing President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s efforts to turn around the sickly local economy as “sincere”.
Speaking in an interview with continental business television channel CNBC Africa, Masiyiwa also described the political changes taking place in Zimbabwe since Mnangagwa came to power late last year as “real”.
The Econet Wireless founder also called for the removal of economic sanctions that were first imposed on Zimbabwe by the West during the ruinous era of the country’s former leader, Robert Mugabe.
“I have invested in Zimbabwe in the last 10 years US$1,5 billion and I am committed to investing in Zimbabwe as I have always been, come rain come shine.
“Concerning the change that has taken place, I believe it is real. I believe . . . Mnangagwa is sincere in the things he wants to do.
“It is going to be extremely challenging (turning around the local economy). Anyone who understands economics knows that it’s going to be tough going, but I think that Zimbabwe needs to be given a chance,” Masiyiwa said.
He said the current sanctions on Zimbabwe were no longer justified.
“I think the sanctions should be removed because there is no justification for them anymore. I have always been on record to say the sanctions are not justified.
“Now we are almost 20 years into the sanctions. You can’t have one country operating with its hands tied at its back,” Masiyiwa added.
Commenting on these remarks, the ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services said the country required all the support it could get to turn its economic fortunes around.
“Government welcomes statements by @StriveMasiyiwa calling for the removal of sanctions imposed against the country.
“The country requires all the support it can get to create an environment that is conducive for the revitalisation of the economy #TSP #MiddleIncomeEconomy2030,” the ministry said on Twitter.
Since Masiyiwa left Zimbabwe nearly two decades ago, after being targeted by Mugabe’s government, he has grown in stature to become a wealthy and much-respected businessman with considerable influence on the continent and internationally.
He sits on many influential boards involved in philanthropy and development work.
Masiyiwa’s remarks this week come as the US government has been giving Mnangagwa’s administration some encouragement — indicating very strongly recently that it is willing to end more than 15 years of Zimbabwe’s international isolation if the country implements key political and electoral reforms.
Prominent US senators, Jeff Flake and Chris Coons — who are both members of Washington’s influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee — met Mnangagwa in Harare to convey this sentiment ahead of the July 30 elections.
The two men are behind a new sanctions bill that amended Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera) — which introduced punitive measures against Mugabe personally, as well as many of his senior officials and State entities.
The successor law, the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Amendment Act of 2018, contains conditions which are specific to Mnangagwa’s new dispensation.