Zimbabwe’s new leader on Thursday appealed to millions of nationals who fled economic decline and political turmoil to return home and help rebuild the nation following the fall of Robert Mugabe.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, took over from the long-time leader who resigned on November 21 following a military takeove. Mugabe had ruled the southern African country for 37 years.
“You are so many here in the diaspora because of in particular economic challenges that beset our country,” said Mnangagwa during a speech in Pretoria in South Africa during his maiden foreign trip.
“I appeal to you to come to Zimbabwe,” he said exactly a month after Mugabe tendered his resignation under popular pressure and as he faced impeachment.
Millions of Zimbabweans have left the country over the past nearly two decades and the bulk of them are in neighbouring South Africa.
“Whatever offence we committed to you please put that behind you…. forgive.
“I wish to say may we together agree that let bygones be bygones and look in the future with hope.
“The country is ours together, it is not the country of (ruling) ZANU-PF, it is not the country of (opposition) MDC.
“From now on Zimbabwe is now open for business,” he told Zimbabwean business people who fled to South Africa.
Excitement to return home
Some South African-based Zimbabwean business people, who flocked to the Zimbabwean consulate to hear Mnangagwa’s proposals on revitalising the economy, are excited by the prospect of moving home.
A Zimbabwean couple, who have a business consultancy company in South Africa, said they attended the meeting to hear what Mnangagwa had to say about the business opportunities available in Zimbabwe.
“We want to see what opportunities are available for us back home and see if we could make use of them,” said the couple, who didn’t want to be named.
The couple also said they would seriously think about moving back to Zimbabwe as there was no place like home.
The couple initially moved to South Africa because the business environment was tough under former President Robert Mugabe’s rule.
“There were a lot of challenges there. That’s why we moved here.”
A Zimbabwean engineer, who has been working and living in South Africa, said he was very excited about Mnangagwa and the revitalisation of the Zimbabwean economy.
“We came here to hear what his idea are about the business people from Zim[babwe] that have established businesses here in South Africa, what plans he has for us back home,” said the engineer who also did not want to be named.
The engineer said he was more than ready to move back home because there was no place like home, and added that he wanted to be part of the refreshing of the Zimbabwean economy.
“This is a new renaissance for Zimbabwe.”
The new president was a long-time ally of Mugabe, and his critics say he is also a hardliner from the ruling ZANU-PF party with a record of alleged graft and repression in Zimbabwe.
As he spoke, a group of fewer than 20 protesters chanted outside the embassy building over Mnangagwa’s role during the early 1980s killings of perceived political dissidents in a campaign known infamously as Gukurahundi.
An estimated 20,000 people were killed by an elite North Korean-trained military unit. At the time Mnangagwa was a security minister under Mugabe.
“How can we work with the killer?” shouted one protester.
Two others carried giant pictures of dead bodies with gruesome cuts and burns.
Another protester yelled: “There’s no difference between Mugabe and Mnangagwa.”
Mnangagwa met South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and was also scheduled to meet ANC’s newly elected leader Cyril Ramaphosa.
The South African presidency said Zuma and Mnangagwa “have undertaken to strengthen economic trade and cooperation between South Africa and Zimbabwe”.
Mnangagwa said his government had reviewed investment laws that forced foreign companies to cede a majority stake to local investors and spooked investment.