Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
ZIMBABWE is a destination of choice in terms of foreign direct investment despite the negative publicity it gets from some sections of the international media, an Austrian investor said yesterday.
After the successful land redistribution programme in 2000 that saw the previously marginalised indigenous people getting their land back from the white minority, some among the international media went into overdrive with negative publicity which resulted in some investors shunning the country and Western nations imposing illegal sanctions.
However, an Austrian company Geiger International has gone against all odds and is investing in infrastructure development.
Addressing thousands of people gathered to witness the official launch of the $984 million rehabilitation and dualisation of the Harare-Beitbridge highway by President Mugabe at Gonawapotera Secondary School near Chaka Business Centre in Chirumanzu, Geiger International (GI) vice president Mr Eric Geiger said:
“Mr President, we bring greetings and well wishes from GI despite all difficulties, negative publicity, insinuations and innuendoes we kept our belief and faith in the project and your proven leadership qualities. Today that faith has been repaid and we are witnessing the ground breaking ceremony for the project. There is negative publicity around Zimbabwe but we are here because we have seen that we can invest because conditions for investment are good.”
Mr Geiger said his company was happy to join Zimbabwe in infrastructure development. “We have seen for ourselves that Zimbabwe is a beautiful and great country and we are thrilled by the warmth of the people, the available skills and economic potential that needs to be unleashed for the benefit of Zimbabweans. GI is happy to join hands with you on the ambitious but achievable journey,” he said.
Mr Geiger hailed President Mugabe for taking his time to grace the occasion.
“Mr President, thank you for gracing this occasion. This gesture is a clear indication that assures GI of the importance your Government attaches to this programme. We wish to reciprocate the same sentiments by assuring you the GI will do whatever it takes to see the completion of this project and contribute meaningfully to the economic growth of the country,” he said.
GI is an Austrian contractor that was last year awarded the tender for the 580 kilometres road, which will be built under a Build-Operate-Transfer model.
Mr Geiger said the negotiations for the deal took six years due to tender and legal issues.
“Geiger International has mobilised resources for the design and construction of the road and will be responsible for collecting toll fees and maintaining the toll gates during the concession period, through a company in which Government will have shares,” said Mr Geiger.
“Proceeds from toll operations will be used to meet operating costs, loan repayments, interest, dividend payments to investors, and shareholders including the Government.
“At the end of the concession period, Geiger will hand over the road to Government, which would have to be responsible for its maintenance.”
The Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Dr Joram Gumbo said more toll gates will be added on the route as Geiger seeks to recoup their investment.
He said negotiations for the loan to fund the Harare-Chirundu road are not yet complete.