By Leon Louw
When it comes to Zimbabwe, investors either remain on the side-lines or they take flight. Two years ago, when Mnangagwa took over from Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe was the talk of the town, especially at major events like the World Economic Forum in Davos.
But the optimism has gradually faded, and today the only person that mentions Zimbabwe at a major mining event like Investing in African Mining Indaba is its Minister of Mines & Mining Development, Winston Chitando.
Chitando is a likeable and credible fellow and has a lot of experience in the Zimbabwean mining industry, but when he says all is well in the country of the big crocodile, you have to take it with a pinch of salt. The biggest problem for foreign companies operating in Zimbabwe has been that they couldn’t repatriate funds in foreign currency.
That is now, according to Chitando, a thing of the past. But, Chitando spoke at an event trying to sell his country to foreign investors, and investors remain sceptical – if not about foreign currency, then about stability, land tenure, and a range of other possible risks.
Stomach for risk
However, Rome was not built in a day, and for all his efforts, Chitando has to be commended. There is no doubt that Zimbabwe hosts some of the best ore bodies in Africa, and, despite all its troubles, is still an attractive mining destination. That’s if you have a large risk appetite.
Don’t ever write Zimbabwe off. Especially if early stage exploration is your game. Chitando reiterated that Zimbabwe has more than 60 minerals in the ground, and that only 10 of those are actively mined. If one takes into consideration all the brownfields projects, and old historic mines that can be resuscitated, some with the infrastructure intact, Zimbabwe indeed starts looking attractive.
That’s if you have a stomach for corruption, which Mnangagwa has not been able to curtail. Zimbabwe should have been on the world map many years ago, but politicians have ruined it, and they continue doing so.
Therefore, investors turn a deaf ear when one asks them about Zimbabwe as they have for the last 30 odd years.