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Business must speak up: Mudenda

By Gift Phiri

Zimbabwe business must speak up against the political deadlock scuttling talks, and clearly warn the political protagonists that they risk plunging an ill-prepared economy further into chaos, National Assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda has said.

Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda
Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda

Mudenda told business bosses at the 6th edition of the CEO Africa round table in Victoria Falls yesterday that business must speak the “naked truth” that unless politicians stop playing politics and back the talks deal, the economy was inexorably hurtling towards a precipice, hurting their bottom-line.

“You must clearly state that business is not happening because of polarisation taking place. You must clearly say we want dialogue as a people. That voice is silent at that moment,” Mudenda said.

Mudenda told the CEOs and senior executives from both public and private sector that their lobby document dubbed “Call to Action” meant to champion economic development in Zimbabwe and across Africa, must also speak to political dialogue.

“Let your document speak to action …We cannot keep blaming imperial powers for ever,” Mudenda said.

This comes as businesses of all sizes are reaching the point of no return, with many now putting in place contingency plans that are a significant drain on time and money, unable to retool amid a worsening dollar crunch.

Mudenda said business must also start communicating effectively and said they were not portraying themselves the proper way by wheeling their message through social media universe.

“Give up the tweeting, write letters,” Mudenda said, citing the story of Strive Masiyiwa who overcame protracted government opposition to launch mobile phone network Econet Wireless Zimbabwe in 1998 by directly engaging the now late Vice President Joshua Nkomo.

“Look at the phenomenal growth of Econet, and this young man riding on a vision he believed in — ‘inspired to change the world’. That’s why today he is the only billionaire in Zimbabwe related to that decisive leadership.”

Business leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity, said speaking up against politics was fraught with peril, given that most business are keen to be seen as apolitical.

“It’s a good idea, but it puts two fundamental business values at odds: freedom of speech and the separation of business and state. I doubt politics will ignore the provocations of wading in of businessmen,” the executive said, adding they would rather be silent about the increasingly aggressive political activity.

Mudenda implored business to lead the crusade of making Africa a giant.

MDC official Tendai Biti, speaking at the CEO Africa Forum, said dialogue was “being arrested by attrition” and “our ugly, predatory and rogue politics.”

“We have spent so much time arguing with ourselves. As a result of this contested narrative, our GDP figures speak for themselves. We need to come up with a common vision and that vision is lacking.

“At the epicentre of this vision should be the right to dignity of person, respect for each other as individuals, respect for constitutionalism and rule of law to deal with this fundamental and developmental gap,” he said.

Adding that regional countries must mediate in the Zimbabwe talks, and said it was unacceptable that President Emmerson Mnangagwa attempts to spearhead the talks. DailyNews

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