Lovemore Ranga Mataire in Windhoek, Namibia
Zimbabwe is ready to play its part in the SADC region, not as an agenda item, but as a driver so that the region becomes what it is supposed to be, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Dr Sibusiso Moyo, has said.
In an interview on the sidelines of the 38th SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government in Windhoek, Namibia, this week, Dr Moyo said management of perception and reality were two different things and that SADC worked on reality and not on social media and perceptions generated by certain people who were developing narratives about Zimbabwe.
"We are saying Zimbabwe was never an issue at this summit. In fact, our expectations are that as we usher in the Second Republic we are going to be playing our role in terms of developing our country and ensuring that the easy of doing business is not only in Zimbabwe, but that the region will be a desirable destination for investors and tourists," he said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa was one of five regional heads of state and government who were scheduled to deliver maiden speeches at the summit. The other four heads of state and government are President Azali Assoumi of the Comoros, Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, Joao Lourenco of Angola and Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.
President Mnangagwa was expected to brief his colleagues on the developments back home and articulate his own vision for the region.
Dr Moyo said what happened on 1 August when MDC Alliance youths led violent demonstrations, which prompted the deployment of the security forces, resulting in the deaths of six people was not the Zimbabwe everyone wanted.
"It has never been part of our embedded values because we are not a violent people. We treasure life of all Zimbabweans. Let me assure you that the President, his cabinet and the entire new dispensation actually regrets the incident of 1 August because that is not characteristic of the Zimbabwe we know.
"Having said that, events of one day cannot characterise and paint the whole nation with a black paint. There are a lot of countries with their own challenges in the world. Yes, we accept it as a hump that slows us down but after getting over it we regain our speed. We are saying we are still seized with the re-engagement process that we had undertaken several months ago so that we reposition the product we call Zimbabwe as an attractive product," he said.
Asked whether there were any reversal or cancellation of agreed investment deals because of the 1 August incident, Dr Moyo said this was not so as there were serious inquiries about investment from around the world.
"I am not aware of any reversals or cancelations of agreements. Instead, there are serious inquiries from the whole global village from companies keen to invest in Zimbabwe. You know that the situation in Zimbabwe is very peaceful. It was just one incident and we therefore believe that the impetus which we had undertaken and the speed at which we were moving is going to be regained so that we move on with our lives again," he said.
Turning to regional issues, Dr Moyo, who has been in Windhoek attending the SADC Council of Ministers meeting which preceeded the summit, said the ministers' deliberations covered a wide-range of issues concerning the region.
"As you are aware, the theme of the conference is to do with infrastructure and youths empowerment. Infrastructure and empowerment are critical components in the re-industrialisation of the region. All the issues point to regional integration, development and stability of the region.
"The point is that the industrialisation strategy of the region is best hinged on key enablers - infrastructure development and youths empowerment. Infrastructure development creates jobs and that's why even in Zimbabwe we are in sync and consistent with the SADC development agenda, which really focuses on infrastructure development," he said.
The minister said to overcome impediments that might slow down the region's integration, there was a need to take advantage of the "key low hanging fruits".
These key low hanging fruits were to do with free movement of people, goods and services.
"Even the interconnectivity in terms of telephone companies -- there shouldn't be this roaming. Talking to someone in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa or any other country in the region must be automatic because that creates easy of doing business," he said.
"Members states must now move and reposition SADC within the reintegration agenda as it has always been the leader of all other sub-regions. There is no need for this region to remain and drag behind the development and integration process which it was actually leading.
"One area we need to focus on is tourism. Why should we market Namibia on its own, Zimbabwe on its own and South Africa on its own? Why don't we present a total package of marketing the region so that a tourist comes into Namibia and doesn't need a visa to go to any of the countries in the region? And whatever the tourist does, he spends money in each of these destinations. So these are the issues that were being debated so that we can find each other through consensus."
Commenting on the summit's theme of youths empowerment and infrastructure development, he said this was exactly what President Mnangagwa had always been articulating since the ushering in of the new dispensation last November.
"Youth empowerment is derived from creation of jobs and jobs come as a result of investments by those with resources who must deploy their resources so that it generates more money. We need to create a conducive environment for both domestic and foreign direct investments.
"That's why the President launched the youths and women banks so that youths can be empowered not to get jobs only, but also to access funding so that they commercialise their innovations and get capital to fund their projects," Dr Moyo said.