Special Economic Zones, a pie in the sky

By Pretty Chavango
Special Economic Zones  (SEZ) board chairperson Dr Gideon Gono says the much-publicised success of SEZ in the country is nothing short of a pie in the sky as there is nothing on the ground yet.
The SEZ board was appointed last year with a view to helping attract the much needed but elusive foreign direct investment to the country, however, eight months down the line there is nothing on the ground to show progress.
The former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor attributed the lack of progress to the unavailability of a chief executive officer and the secretariat for the institution, as well as the failure by government to provide them with offices and necessary resources.
Currently, the SEZ board alternates from the former Ministry of Macro Planning boardroom and Gono’s personal offices in Harare and the members are also using their personal resources including their vehicles and fuel in discharging their duties.
Appearing before a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs, Dr Gono said they are currently facing challenges with regards to the ministry they report to as there have been a lot of changes in ministry mandates.
“As it stands we are like a flying object, we do not know which ministry we are now under whether it is Finance, Industry and Commerce or Macro-economic planning and until that is determined we will remain where we are.
“We have no chief executive officer or a secretariat, we did the interviews as required by the law and submitted our recommended candidates to the government for appointment but nothing has been done and because other members of the board are fully employed elsewhere, they look up to the chairman to do most of the secretarial work.
“We have no offices, sometimes we meet in the boardroom of what used to be the Ministry of Macroeconomic Planning, but when we are meeting with investors or when they want to submit their proposals we use my personal office,” he said.
Dr Gono said some of the challenges have been brought about by the transition that is taking place in the country adding that “we have written to various ministries asking whether we belong to them or not, we hope there will be round robin consultations to determine where we belong.
“The Act does not help much in determining our parent ministry it only mentions that we report to the ministry but does not mention the ministry or specify it,” he said.
The SEZ chairperson also revealed that the President might not be aware that there is nothing on the ground and that the policy needed to be changed as it was a bit offline with how SEZ work especially on determining the special zones.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been talking glowingly about the SEZ since his inception on November 24 and even took the message to Davos for the World Economic Forum where he was marketing the zones.

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