‘Political squabbling cripples business’

Source: ‘Political squabbling cripples business’ | Theindependent (Zimbabwe)

Kudzai Kuwaza

THE Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) has called for political dialogue between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, saying the standoff between the two main political leaders has crippled the business sector.

The call comes in the wake of concerted efforts to bring Mnangagwa and Chamisa to the negotiating table following the disputed presidential election in 2018, which Mnangagwa won by a wafer-thin 50,6%.

However, the efforts have hit a brick wall due to the entrenched positions of the two political leaders. Mnangagwa insists Chamisa must recognise him as President before negotiations begin, while Chamisa says the legitimacy issue should be one of the issues up for discussion.

Mnangagwa set up the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad), comprising leaders who contested the 2018 elections and has said he will only negotiate with Chamisa through this platform.

However, Chamisa has rejected this, saying Polad is basically a group of Mnangagwa’s cheerleaders
“The obtaining political noise is weighing on business due to perceived country risk,” the ZNCC said in recommendations made from its recently-held annual general meeting. “We recognise the presence of Polad, however, there must be genuine engagement of political parties — there must be commitment for dialogue from the two political protagonists, Zanu PF and MDC Alliance.”

On the Global Compensation Agreement — an agreement between government and dispossessed white commercial farmers — the ZNCC recommended that resources should come from farming profits to honour obligations of US$3,5 billion agreed by the State, as the fiscus cannot carry the cost associated with fulfilling the commitment. It further suggested that beneficiaries should pay for the farms on 25-year mortgages which can be used to compensate the former commercial farmers.

“The obligation should not be a burden to the general taxpayers. There is need to introduce a tax to be paid by farmers who benefited from the land reform which will go towards paying the US$3,5 billion,” the business organisation prescribed.

It noted that the foreign currency auction market for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) is not necessary given that the Foreign Currency Auction System is already in place.

“Bids for SMEs should be reserved; on average 40% of the envelope should be set for SMEs,” the ZNCC said.

On the currency issue, the ZNCC called for government to adopt dual or multicurrency in the short to medium term, while crafting a credible de-dollarisation path, whose fruits can only be expected at least five years from now.

The Zimbabwean dollar has weakened considerably since its reintroduction through Statutory Instrument 142 of 2019 without vital benchmarks which include low inflation and between three to six months import cover. It has stoked inflation, which has since galloped past the 800% mark decimating incomes and pensions denominated in the local currency.

The business organisation recommended that substantial measures be taken to fight corruption, which include the strengthening of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.

“Corruption has become a pandemic in Zimbabwe alongside Covid-19; we estimate that almost 20% of the National Budget is lost through corruption,” the ZNCC noted.

It also expressed concern on the overreliance on Statutory instruments (SIs) to correct market distortions, which is achieving the opposite in addition to undermining institutions which are supposed to deliberate on the rationale for different policy moves.

The business organisation said the statutory instruments, which totalled 285 in 2019 alone, elevate policy uncertainty and inconsistency.

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