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Zimbabwe courts South African investors

Zimbabwe’s economy is on the mend as the worst is over, the country’s finance minister said Friday in a bid to assure investors in South Africa that its neighbour was “not a basket case”.

“We are a giant waking up,” Zimbabwean Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told investors. “We are out of the trenches. We are not a basket case.”

Chinamasa was leading a high profile delegation of Zimbabwean government ministers to drum up foreign investment from neighbouring South Africa, the continent’s most developed economy.

The panel said the economy – which six years ago suffered a world record hyperinflation – was on the mend and that its controversial black empowerment laws were being clarified to show they were flexible.

The “worst is over”, Chinamasa said, adding that work was being done to improve the ease of doing business in the country.

“Zimbabwe is open for investment and the opportunities are enormous,” he said.

He said Zimbabwe was “now very much politically stable” because land and equity issues had been tackled.

Zimbabwe’s indigenisation law, first implemented in 2010, forced foreign companies to cede 51 percent of shares to Zimbabwean partners, spooking investors.

But the Zimbabwean team, which included several ministers and the central bank governor, said they had failed to communicate the law clearly.

They said the government was working at making it a “clear, consistent and predictable policy”.

“It’s no one-size-fits-all policy,” said Chinamasa.

He urged South African firms to seriously consider Zimbabwe as an investment destination and said it was in the interest of South Africa to help grow its neighbour’s economy to stop the tide of economic refugees.

“I believe South African investors have a moral and business obligation to invest in Zimbabwe, or we will continue bothering you,” said Chinamasa. “It’s in your interest.”

“We should have the same level of prosperity,” said the minister.

Zimbabwe’s economy entered a tailspin after the launch of controversial land reforms 14 years ago. By 2008, inflation had officially peaked at 231 million percent before the government stopped counting.