Interview with Mr. Maxwell Ranga, Ambassador of Zimbabwe

  • July 4, 2015

As the Ambassador of Zimbabwe, put some light on the mounting India-Zimbabwe bilateral relations and what endeavors have been made to further foster these relations?

Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to your magazine for being one of the few publications in India which is fully committed to African issues. This helps not only to promote the continent in India but also brings Africa closer to the Indian people. The economic cooperation that arises as a result of the publicity your magazine gives leads to the socio-economic advancement of both our people. Let me once again say thank you for affording me the opportunity to speak to the Indian people through your publication at such an early stage of my arrival in India. I only arrived early December last year and presented my credentials on the 16th of January.

All my predecessors since Zimbabwe opened its Mission in India have endeavoured to foster good economic and political relations between India and Zimbabwe. I intend to continue on the same path. As you are aware, the relationship between our two countries is both in the bilateral and multilateral context. On the bilateral level, the political side is excellent regardless of which party is in government in India. It is the economic side that we need to focus more on. Zimbabwe ratified the BIPPA (Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement) in June last year. We hope that this move will further encourage Indian investors to see Zimbabwe as their destination of choice. Our two countries are now regularly holding the Joint Trade Committee Meetings to iron out any challenges facing business interactions and to come up with new strategies to boost our economic cooperation. My desire is to see our two countries finally holding the Joint Bilateral Commission. It is unfortunate that we have not held any session for some time. I am happy to note the growing linkages we are having on the diamond sector and our shared views within the Kimberley Process. Zimbabwe also continues to benefit from India’s assistance in developing its human resource capacity through scholarships offered on both short and long term basis.

On the multilateral front, I look forward to India’s convening of the India-Africa Forum Summit this year. Under this Forum, Zimbabwe will be capacitated to establish a Food Testing Laboratory, a Vocational Training Incubation Center and a Rural Technology Park. These initiatives will tremendously boost our small to medium scale business sector, a vital sector given the challenges of unemployment we face.

It was recently reported that Zimbabwe wants to engage investors and international partners to drive its economic growth. What strategies have the authorities taken in this regard? How can India assist Zimbabwe to boost its economic development?

It has always been the policy of the Zimbabwe government to attract foreign investment.  The government came up with the “Look East Policy’’ specifically to target Asian investors. It is not a “Look China Policy” but an invitation to all of Asia including India to invest in Zimbabwe. Regarding India, last year we introduced the e-visa facility for Indians wishing to visit Zimbabwe. This has helped to expedite the whole process of accessing Zimbabwe. Our private sectors recently launched the India-Zimbabwe Chamber of Commerce and we look forward to the Embassy being involved in publicizing this forum throughout India. Zimbabwe continues to actively participate at the annual CII-EXIM BANK CONCLAVE ON INDIA-AFRICA PROJECT PARTNERSHIP and in this regard, I am happy to acknowledge and thank the Indian government for the USD28,6 million Line of Credit it availed to Zimbabwe last year. However, I appeal to the Indian investors not to wait for the Lines of Credit but to consider other alternative forms of funding their investment ventures in Zimbabwe. The multi-million ESSAR-ZISCO deal is a good example of such an initiative. The Embassy will strive to engage other business associations besides the CII, be they in New Delhi or in other States. I seize this opportunity to say to the Indian investors that Zimbabwe is open for business and the Embassy is open to facilitate that journey to investing in Zimbabwe in all aspects. After all, Zimbabwe can boast of being endowed with at least 43 different mineral deposits, wonderful soils for agriculture, good infrastructure facilities and a healthy and educated workforce (the most literate in Africa).

Can you shed some light on the government’s decision to export elephants to fund Wildlife Management in Zimbabwe?

The government recently issued a policy statement regarding the export of live elephants from Zimbabwe. The statement points out that Zimbabwe has a rich and successful history of wildlife conservation which dates back to pre-colonial times. It adds that:

(i) Zimbabwe is Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) since 1982 and is bound by the provisions of this convention in all its wildlife trade with other countries. Permits and certificates for international trade under CITES are issued by designated national CITES authorities,

(ii) All live exports in Zimbabwe are conducted in compliance with national and international veterinary requirements and quarantine conditions including IATA Global Standards for the Transportation of Live Animals by Air. Wildlife captures and translocations are done by experienced and skilled personnel who are guided by CITES regulations as well as international best practice,

(iii) Upon receipt of an application to import animals from Zimbabwe, our CITES Scientific Authority must confirm the availability of the species and numbers required and that such an export will not have any long term detrimental impact on the remaining populations in the wild. A team of experts is then dispatched to assess the appropriateness and suitability of the intended destination with exports being permitted only in cases where such technical assessments have made positive findings,

(iv) Zimbabwe subscribes to the principle of sustainable utilization, not only of wildlife but all its natural resources. Sustainable utilization tries to balance conservation benefits with the needs and expectations of the people who live with the wildlife. This approach recognizes that the future survival of wildlife depends on its relationship with local communities. Further, sustainable utilization allows for wildlife conservation to contribute towards paying for itself, and

(v) Despite the fact that culling remains the only viable management option that can be used to effectively keep the population of elephants within the ecological carrying capacity or preferred densities (estimated population of 53 900 compared to carrying capacity of 15 000), Zimbabwe has not implemented culling since 1988/89 given its responsibility as a global citizen who is sensitive to the plight of the species at the global level. Instead, Zimbabwe has opted for non-lethal options in the management of its elephant population such as the current exercise of capturing and translocating live animals to approved appropriate and acceptable destinations within and outside the country in terms of laid down procedures as well as terms and conditions.

Let me conclude this topic by saying that in fact, at our own great expense as a country, we have burdened ourselves with the huge costs of managing abnormal elephant populations for the benefit of the entire world. We should be commended for this rather than being vilified by certain parties in so-called conservation politics.

The platinum mining in Zimbabwe, the largest in the world, is expected to experience a downfall in this year. How does Zimbabwean authorities plan to deal with this crisis?

Zimbabwe has the second largest platinum reserves in the world. Commodity prices go up and down, now and again. This is not new. I am sure the relevant authorities are alive to what happens in the international markets and will have the necessary remedial measures in place to lessen the impact on the national budget. It is heartening to note that despite this negative forecast, both government and the miners are still determined to establish a platinum refinery in the country. This is in line with the government policy, ZIMASSET (the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation) which calls for, among its four pillars, beneficiation and value addition. Through this policy, Zimbabwe seeks to arrest the trend were it remains only as a source of raw materials as has been the case in the past. This paradigm shift will add tremendous value to our mineral and other resources.

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