“Zimbabwe is open for business.” These words by President Emmerson Mnangagwa have become a hymn for the new administration in Zimbabwe following the eventful departure of Zimbabwe’s longtime ruler Robert Mugabe. The words emphasize the new administration’s determination to end Zimbabwe’s isolation from the international community.
This message has been constant from day one of President Emmerson Mnangagwa taking office. From Davos to China and to the Commonwealth and to Chatham House. Throughout the election campaign, the ruling party has built its message on making a clear distinction of the Mnangagwa administration from that of his predecessor. Potential investors have been visiting Zimbabwe, exploring possible opportunities. President Mnangagwa has promised to clear the way and remove obstacles to investment.
But what does it mean for human rights that Zimbabwe is open for business? In 2018, African heads of state converged in China for the FOCAC (Focus on Africa China Cooperation) Summit where it is reported that China promised US$60 billion in investment. Soon it will be the 28th Africa France Summit. And the song goes on.
In all this rush for business, what is the place for human rights? Is there space for investing in mechanisms for ensuring that the principles of transparency and accountability are upheld. And that whatever investment that finds its way into Zimbabwe does actually benefit the ordinary people of Zimbabwe?
To reflect on these questions, members of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, together with other critical stakeholders that included diplomatic community, civil society leaders and representatives of government met in Harare on 20 June 2018.
The high-level dialogue on international reengagement looked at a number of issues and raised many questions. This report documents the outcomes of that reflection and makes some key recommendations for the government of Zimbabwe and business actors interested in doing business with attention to key human rights principles.