Ranga Mataire, Group Political Editor
WHILE the British House of Lords was recently peddling the tired trope about Zimbabwe’s human rights misdeeds, their representative in the country was literally singing a different hymn at the recent Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo.
It really makes one wonder whether there are any communication links between the Ambassador and her principals back home, who appear perpetually stuck in a colonial time warp.
Led by one Lord Oates of the Liberal Democrats party, the House of Lords unashamedly allowed the man who claimed to have taught in rural Zimbabwe in early 1980s to gush out his vitriol coated with colonial undertones.
One would be forgiven for thinking that the House of Lords is a Zimbabwean institution given the manner in which the man went overboard in ostracising the Government for alleged misdeeds, most of which appear to have been crafted from a phantasmagorical “Lord of the Rings” script.
The man talked about countrywide “widespread violence and intimidation against opposition campaigners” perpetrated by Zanu-PF supporters.
He painted an image of a country in turmoil, a real Armageddon.
Either the man is delusional or someone is in the habit of feeding him toxic narratives that confirm his own prejudice against Zimbabwe because none of the “widespread violence” ever took place. Save for the unfortunate Kwekwe incident, which police promptly moved in to investigate, political players freely traversed the country mobilising their supporters without any incident.
Sadly, the cacophony from the House of Lords is in sharp contrast to the prevailing situation on the ground where after nearly two decades, the British Embassy returned to the biggest trade showcase in the country (ZITF), in a move seen by observers as an acknowledgement of the numerous strides being undertaken by the Second Republic to create a conducive environment for business to thrive.
Speaking to journalists at the British Embassy stand at the ZITF, said her country is keen on increasing sound trade relations with Zimbabwe, a position that was in line with President Mnangagwa’s engagement and re-engagement drive.
“For the first time after 20 years, here we are, exhibiting at the ZITF and this is a sign that relations between the two countries are improving greatly. Last year, despite Covid-19, we traded worth hundreds of millions and there are a number of products that are being taken to Britain from Zimbabwe,” Ambassador Robinson said.
The ambassador expressed confidence in the direction the economy was taking, saying: “From the exhibition here, we can see that industry in Zimbabwe is growing compared to previous years.”
Ambassador Robinson was not alone in seeing the positive prospects of Zimbabwe. Many foreign exhibitors said Zimbabwe is a safe investment destination and the ZITF is an important platform to create business linkages.
The foreign exhibitors said the 62nd edition of the ZITF ignited optimism among potential investors who are exploring opportunities in the country in line with the Second Republic’s “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” policy.
A representative for Belmedpreparaty – a company from Belarus, Ms Darya Sidzelnikava,who was exhibiting for the first time, said the company was fervently exploring investment opportunities in the country.
The company produces a range of more than 200 pharmaceutical products, which it exports to several countries in different parts of the world.
“We are exhibiting at the ZITF for the first time and we are optimistic that this event will open investment opportunities for us,” Ms Sidelnikava said.
Contrary to Lord Oates’ aspersions, Zimbabwe is an investor friendly country judging by the number of foreign exhibitors at the show. Running under the theme: “Rethink, Reimagine, Reinvent Value Chains for Economic
Development,” the trade show as highlighted by the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Dr Sekai Nzenza testified the increased connection between the country and international companies, embassies and diplomats that reflected confidence in the Second Republic and the work being done by President Mnangagwa.
The popularity of the trade showcase is evidenced by the fact that a total of 45 786 square metres was snapped up by exhibitors, representing 93 percent of the available space, and this was after organisers created supplementary exhibition space.
ZITF company chairman, Mr Busisa Moyo confirmed the heightened participation of companies saying: “The majority of the 542 exhibitors (420 direct exhibitors and 162 indirect exhibitors) who participated expressed satisfaction particularly with the quality and quantity of their interactions.”
A total of 24 foreign exhibitors participated, representing 13 foreign countries. There is surely something good that this Government is doing. It just can’t happen that approximately 200 delegates representing 30 countries participated in the second edition of the ZITF Diplomats Forum. That in itself is a huge endorsement of the country’s efforts to create an enabling environment for business towards the fulfilment of Vision 2030.
This was an international trade show with a difference and no one can accuse President Mnangagwa of beating his own drum when he told participants that this shows his Government’s engagement and re-engagement efforts were creating tangible results.
“After 20 years, we have countries like Britain coming back to exhibit here,” President Mnangagwa said.
This year’s edition comes at a time when the country has stepped up efforts to achieve export-led economic growth taking advantage of the widening regional market under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
As the country focuses on economic growth guided by the philosophy of not leaving anyone or any place behind, it would be good for the House of Lords representatives to use official channels of information exchange instead of relying on political activists.
As alluded to by one Zimbabwean government official, the British Lords should not be in the habit of writing fiction about Zimbabwe in order to debate it. There is so much on their plate to deal with instead of acting like colonial overseers.