Robert Gumede's charm offensive as Zimbabwe seeks investors

17 January 2018 - 14:47 By James Thompson In Harare
Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa. File photo
Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa. File photo
Image: Times Media

The Zimbabwean government has promised to lower taxes for foreign investors in an attempt to lure Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told a business meeting in Windhoek on Monday that his government would go the distance to attract investors.

"Taxation‚ I agree‚ is too high. It's a matter that we are going to address so that we can proceed to a position where we get more taxes from more volumes‚" he said.

Under former president Robert Mugabe's watch last year‚ the World Bank ranked the country 159 out of 190 on the ease of doing business global index.

Potential investors such as Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote were worried about the government's policy inconsistency‚ particularly with the indigenisation laws that required ceding majority ownership to locals. However‚ the law has since been relaxed. Dangote is yet to invest in the country.

But the new toast of the town is South African businessman Robert Gumede‚ described by Forbes Magazine as "The Black Knight of Africa" for his rags to riches tale.

Gumede arrived in Harare on Sunday and told journalists that he was ready to invest US$1.2-billion (R15-Billion) to help the government of Emmerson Mnangagwa to achieve its "short-term goals of turning around the economy".

"I believe good times are back and I didn’t want to wait‚ especially when I am in South Africa as a neighbour‚” he told the state-run Herald newspaper.

It was a meeting with Mnangagwa in December that lured him to Zimbabwe‚ two weeks after the latter had been helped into power by the military.

On Monday‚ Gumede met Zimbabwe's vice president‚ retired army general Constantino Chiwenga.

After the meeting he told journalists that his immediate interest was in power generation - with a strong emphasis on solar - tourism where he would likely built a five star resort whose flagship would be a hotel in Victoria Falls‚ water sanitation and reticulation‚ and lastly construction.

Mnangagwa has close personal ties with numerous business players in South Africa - chief among them‚ the owner of Big Time Strategic Group‚ Justice Maphosa.

Mnangagwa credited his escape from an alleged plot to assassinate him by "criminal elements" around former president Robert Mugabe to Maphosa who made available a private jet that flew him from Beira to South Africa where he intended to ask for political asylum.

"Fortunately‚ I found a [business] card in my wallet which bore the name of a colleague here‚ (Justice) Maphosa‚ whom I phoned. I came here and I was well looked after‚” Mnangagwa said during a meeting with business leaders in Pretoria on December 21.