Zimbabwe Detainees Going Hungry
Zimbabwe Detainees Going Hungry

Zimbabwe's two home affairs (Interior) ministers earlier this month told a gathering of successful Zimbabwean businessmen in Johannesburg that the government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai wants them to return to help revive the economy.

Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change jointly run the Home Affairs portfolio in the power-sharing government that emerged one year ago.

The unity government has stabilized the Zimbabwean economy after years of hyper-inflation and economic decline.

The home affairs minister representing ZANU-PF, Kembo Mohadi, urged exiled businessmen who wish to invest in Zimbabwe to visit the country, saying foreign media were responsible for the negative reports on the investment climate.

"Investment opportunities in Zimbabwe are abundant and conducive for every business interest. As a country and government we do not trample on individual or property rights," Mohadi said.

The MDC Home Affairs Minister Giles Mutsekwa, said it is the duty of every Zimbabwean to help rebuild the nation and he added that the government knows it must make the business environment free.

"The main reason why we have come here is to give assurances, as the two ministers who are responsible for the interior, that we will - the two of us - endeavor to ensure that you come back home without any hindrance, most importantly that you come back home without anybody victimizing you whilst you are in that country," Mutsekwa said.

Several businessmen attending the event had experienced difficulties with the Zimbabwean government. They had been "specified" which means their companies had been taken over by government-appointed administrators after they were accused of alleged illegal activities.

Critics say the controversial specification law has been used by some individuals with political connections to raid profitable companies.

One of those present was John Moxon, the former chairman of the board of the Meikles corporation that owns extensive tourism operations in Zimbabwe. Moxon was specified amidst a dispute with the company's chief executive and fled Zimbabwe after a months of harassment.

Home Affairs Minister Mutsekwa said a debate had been launched on whether specification discourages investment and whether methods other than specification could be used to investigate suspected law-breakers.

"That debate is going on. But while that debate is going on the two minister of Home Affairs have taken it upon themselves that we will clear all outstanding issues regarding specification," Mutsekwa said.

The head of the defunct Trust Bank, William Nyemba, who had also been specified, said many businessmen are keen to return.

"And I can't wait to be going back home soon, I believe so, to go and resuscitate Trust Bank. And if we can get the opportunity to try and help rebuild our country, let's do so," Nyemba said.

Nevertheless, many foreign investors have been unnerved by recent moves on profitable companies, including renewed seizures of white-owned commercial farms and orders to some tourism operators to take on local partners.

A new law was published last week in the official government gazette that would require foreign owners of major companies in certain sectors to sell 51 percent ownership to black Zimbabweans within five years.

The law was passed by the ZANU-PF controlled parliament before the inauguration of the unity government. Prime Minister Tsvangirai has rejected the law saying it was published without consulting the cabinet and would scare away foreign investment.