The group of journalists and entertainment personalities from the Sadc region who are touring Zimbabwe have been impressed by the development projects initiated by the Second Republic and have predicted that the country will be an economic powerhouse in the near future.
The delegation is in the country on a five-day familiarisation tour, that is aimed at promoting the Brand Zimbabwe destination and supporting the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.
The tour has been organised by the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, and supported by mining giant, Africa Chrome Fields.
It is running under theme “True Zimbabwe Tour” as part of a charm offensive by key stakeholders to continue amplifying Zimbabwe as a premium travel and investment destination.
Yesterday, the delegation paid a courtesy call on President Mnangagwa at State House and were impressed by the country’s economic prospects.
Veteran South African actor Sello Maake kaNcube described Zimbabwe as “phoenix rising”.
“You know, talk about witnessing a phoenix rising and a phoenix always rises from the ashes. Just after sanctions were imposed I met Zimbabweans in South Africa and they were mourning, and I said to them you may not see it now but in Africa, Zimbabwe is the only one that has claimed their land back.
“There is nothing as powerful as owning your space. Having grown on the notion of black consciousness that says black man you are on your own, what I have witnessed here is black man saying we are on our own and we are going to make it happen and the story I am gathering is watch Zimbabwe in 10 years’ time, it’s an amazing story to be told,” he said.
Another South African actress and producer, Sonia Mbele, echoed similar sentiments saying the various development projects being implemented by Government were self-evident.
“I have been to Zimbabwe before and this could be my third time but what I have noticed is the immense growth, it’s in your face and its obvious that there’s just been growth in leaps and bounds and whatever Zimbabwe is about to experience as a country will be massive,” she said.
The Government has initiated massive infrastructure projects that include roads and dam construction, new power plants, airports expansion and opening of new mines for minerals such as gold, platinum, lithium and chrome among others.
Apart from that, the agricultural sector is experiencing rapid growth that has seen the country achieving food self-sufficiency in the past three years.
Timothy Simelani, the political editor of the Times of eSwatini said their visit to Zimbabwe had dispelled the negative image of the country portrayed in some sections of the international media.
“We just had a meeting with President Mnangagwa who briefed us about the real picture the Zimbabwe nation is. We have read stories from other sources which depict a picture of Zimbabwe that could be wrong.
“We are happy that today we got to learn how Zimbabweans are rebuilding their country after the imposition of sanctions and the upheaval of the last decade. We are happy to note that Zimbabwe is not what the international community thinks it is. Zimbabwe is a nation of people that are concerned with rebuilding their country so that it does not only become a peaceful and loving nation for Zimbabweans but it will become a hub for economic development in the region,” Mr Simelani said.
Mr Conrad Mwanza, the executive director MPC Media which facilitated the tour, said it was meant to tell the true story about Zimbabwe.
“As you know there is a lot of misinformation especially outside the country, everyone is talking about the negative things about the country. So now we want to talk about the other side of the country, the good things no one talks about, the good things being done by the Second Republic and we want to highlight that especially outside the country,” he said.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa said the delegation had been happy to see the progress Zimbabwe was making.
“Let me say these are people who are celebrities in their own countries, as you know, actors and actresses are role models of many societies and we are happy that working with MPC Media, which is a group of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora we have managed to bring them here so, we can say Sadc is here,” she said.
“I am grateful that the President had an opportunity to explain to them the background of our relations that go way back and the President was able to give them an expose of the success stories of Zimbabwe, the policies he has put in place and these journalists and celebrities as they go back to their countries, they will be able to say things as they saw them and they were happy to see that so much has changed in Zimbabwe.
“They will write and push to their audiences the right narratives about Zimbabwe. So many things have been said about Zimbabwe, which are not true and they said we will come to Zimbabwe and ‘see for ourselves’,” she said.
During the meeting, President Mnangagwa responded to questions raised by the delegation on various issues that include the re-engagement policy, sanctions and the elections.
“We are re-engaging with those countries who had disengaged with us as a matter of policy. As a result of that when Britain imposed sanctions on us, they were in the EU and when they left, we quietly informed the EU to make sure that the UK takes all their baggage out of Europe back to London, so there are now excellent relations between us and the rest of Europe.
“We now have relations at government level, ministers we exchange and so on. You can talk about France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, we have good relations with them. But when Britain was in the EU, the EU had sanctions against us. With regards to that sector of our foreign relations we have succeeded. We have not done much progress with the Americans. With the British for some reason, I think they think that we are becoming too independent,” he said.
President Mnangagwa added that when the British imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, they banned the exports of spares of fighter jets to Zimbabwe and the country had to cannibalise some of the jets to get spares so that others could be flown.
“So, two years ago at the ZITF in Bulawayo, we flew the Hawks for the British to see that we were able to fly them,” he said.
President Mnangagwa also told the visitors that he had declined an invitation to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in September last year because of the British sanctions on Zimbabwe.
“I got a letter, to be invited to attend the funeral, then I said no I am on sanctions and they said for this we want you to be there so in the invitation letter they said ‘there are no sanctions, you can attend,’ and I said no my people will accuse me (of betrayal). I said sanctions are on my country and not me, although you have removed me my country is still on sanctions, so I can’t go,” the President said.
He added that the British then suggested that he go and sign the condolence book at their local embassy, which he initially declined arguing he would be violating their sanctions since the embassy was a British territory.
“They then wrote a second letter to say no, under this we assure you there are no sanctions you can visit our embassy, then I went there with my condolences. After that there was the coronation of King Charles III, I was then invited, so I have been there (UK). So, relations between Harare and London have changed totally, they have changed, now we are corresponding . . . relations between Harare and London have improved drastically,” President Mnangagwa said.
Responding to a question on what Sadc was doing to facilitate easy movement of people and goods between nations in the region, the President said the issue would be discussed during its summit next week.
“We are going to have a Sadc summit next week and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi is going to champion that, the modalities of doing that is what we will discuss,” he said.
On the forthcoming elections, he said the number of presidential candidates could have declined because some of them were now satisfied with the developments in the country.
“After the 2018 elections, there were 23 of us (presidential candidates) and I had won, so I said we are one people, one country and each one of us had ideas of how they wanted to run this country and I had won the overall race, so I said I want all of you under what we called Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD). We all come together to discuss how each one of us wanted to run the country. If there are useful ideas, we implement on a cooperating basis.
“So only two did not come but the other 21 came, so it means I was enjoying the ideas which they could have implemented had they won the elections. This time some of them are so happy that they want to advise me outside that contest,” President Mnangagwa said.
The presidential elections will be contested by 10 candidates following the disqualification of independent candidate, Saviour Kasukuwere.