Saturday, March 31, 2007


Recently I attended meetings that left me wondering if Canada is really serious about doing business in Africa.

In all the meetings I detected a dearth of information on Africa as an investment destination and trade partner. I wonder what Canadian diplomats and companies already doing business in Africa are reporting back because it appears the government regards Africa in the mode of a hapless continent that can only be dealt with in terms of aid.

But if one cares to ask them, Africans will tell you that their priority is investment and trade.

A week ago I wrote about how CIDA could be abolished because it is considered to have failed to make a change in Africa and yet that determination is made without input from African beneficiaries.

Last Friday I attended a business roundtable discussion organized by the Canadian Council for Africa (CCA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFIAT).

It turned out that at a time when Europeans, Americans, Chinese and Indians are making a beeline to make business partnerships with Africa, Canada has reduced its incentives to businesses and is pulling out its commercial attaches.

This is because DFIAT lacks real time information on the business potential of Africa. For example, DFIAT has divided Sub-Sahara Africa into four investment and trade zones (south, east, west and north) with the main determinant being the availability of oil and minerals.

The zones show that DFIAT does not consider Africa a continent to do business with but a provider of resources.

It also shows that the department ignores information on the existence of investment and trade zones that Africa itself has set up under the African Union (AU). These are Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), East Africa Community (EAC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

These groupings are used by the EU, China, the US and other investment and trade blocs to great rewards. Trying to circumvent these blocs will not help Canada and may actually be the reason Canadian businesses find it difficult to penetrate the African market because when they think they have satisfied requirements in one DFIAT zone, when they go from country to country they find different requirements they need to meet.

Another issue that came out in the meting was that DFIAT regards business related to education and health provision in Africa can only be provided under the humanitarian banner, hence its CIDA’s job.

Nothing could be far from the truth. Africa has long moved past the free education and health mode and investors from other countries are taking advantage, making a killing by opening up private institutions in Africa.

But DFIAT bureaucrats take orders from their political bosses. This is where the problem lies and it was articulated clearly at another meeting, on Saturday, which was called by Liberal MP, Keith Martin who is seeking support from Zimbabweans to re-launch his effort to have Mugabe indicted in Canadian courts as a war criminal.

Martin admitted that fellow politicians regard Zimbabwe and Africa in general as “a lost cause”, “a dead end”. I wonder whether the wars in Somalia and Sudan or civil unrest in Zimbabwe and other spots are enough for Canada to dismiss Africa totally like that or there is something else.

No matter, my point is that Africa is emerging as a business destination and Canada would best be advised to get involved or it will be left to rue the missed opportunity in a not so distant future.



I was about to sign off on my column for this week when new information landed in my inbox. Someone told me that a new Zimbabwean pressure group has been formed in Toronto and it is called the Empowered Women of Zimbabwe (EWOZ).

It is late at night here in Canada and its my deadline, so you will forgive me because I do not have enough details about this spanking new organisation except that it is chaired by a fellow journalist, Irene Mazvita Mlambo. I am not sure yet what the organisation stands for but I promise to let you know next week when I get a chance to talk to the chairlady or someone in the group.

For years Zimbabwe has been losing thousands of its professionals to other countries who have readily accepted them as value added to their economies. One such country is Canada where Zimbabweans, although they are relatively fewer than other nationals, are already making their mark in various professional sectors.

This did not escape the eye of the Ontario provincial ministry of labour which is repealing its labour laws to enhance the integration of foreign trained professionals into the economy.

The ministry has especially sought the input of Zimbabweans “because of their high level of education and professionalism” to draw up a new law that will be used in future. This naturally makes us Zim-Canucks proud but our pride is tempered by knowledge that this kind of recognition would have been more meaningful were we at home and being accepted by our own government. Anyway, as this process progresses, I will be updating you.

There is nothing that is more fulfilling than to have someone take your criticism as constructive and try to do the right thing. In the past I have been “trashing” the Toronto branch of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). I have said, factually, that they are ineffective, disorganised and directionless.

Well, I see some change already. On Saturday I attended a meeting they called with Liberal Member of Parliament, Keith Martin, who has been fighting a lone battle to have Mugabe indicted as a war criminal by the Canadian government. Martin has lost that battle so he is seeking Zimbabweans to give him the numbers he needs to relaunch the effort.

So, in Saturday’s meeting, the MDC supporters pledged to back him by marching on the Zimbabwean embassy in Ottawa on April 16th as a way to draw Canadian attention to Zimbabwe’s plight.
The last time they demonstrated here in Toronto, they sang Ishe Komborera Africa and told bystanders that it was the national anthem of Zimbabwe. When I and other people told them that Zimbabwe’s national anthem had long changed to Simudzai Mureza WeZimbabwe/Pakhamisa iFlag yeZimbabwe, they argued that it was a Zanu PF song. So, I was pleasantly surprised on Saturday when it was announced that MDC members were learning the actual Zimbabwean anthem which they had now accepted to be theirs as Zimbabweans.

One member asked MP Martin to lobby the international community to allow Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to vote. Martin rightly answered that this issue is a constitutional matter that only Zimbabweans could determine.

However, that point was, to me, a sign of foresight on the part of the member. Some of us have long argued that if Mugabe could be forced to allow exiled Zimbabweans to vote and then make sure the elections were monitored more tightly than before, then this time next year, we could be talking of a new regime in the country. Food for thought.

Watch this space.



I told you from the beginning that in this column there will be no sacred cows. In that regard, this week I would like to talk a little bit of politics.

Like all other Zimbabweans elsewhere in the Diaspora, we, Zim-Canucks have two forms of political representation.

One is, obviously, the government, via the Zimbabwe embassy in Ottawa. Well, I have nothing much to say about Mrs. Chideya and her team except, of course, that they represent President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF and we all know what they stand for.

My focus today is on the executive of the Toronto branch of our main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. These guys’ style of leadership leaves a lot to be desired. They will not tolerate criticism whatsoever, and I should know because I have been vilified many times for calling a spade exactly what it is.

Some members of the leadership asked me to expose some of the things that are done by the executive of the branch and before I tell you some of these “vices” I need to say that I asked the chairman, Mr. Andrew Manyevere, not once, but twice. On both occasions I also told him I was asking in my capacity as a journalist and that I intended to write about it.

His response: “Some of the things you are saying are known only to my executive and the fact that you know them makes me believe you when you say members of my executive told you.

“We have problems, but like in any organization, we have channels to deal with those problems and that is what we are doing.”

Now, here are the problems that members complain about:

The first thing is that MDC-Toronto draws most of its membership from Zimbabweans seeking political asylum. Now, when any of them complain about one thing or another, they are quickly reminded that they can always leave the party but bearing in mind that if they do, they might not have a chance at the refugee board. I know that is very far from the truth.

Then there is the issue of officials who “misplace” or “borrow” party funds for personal use with the complicity of the executive. One wonders whether the MDC code of conduct allows this and if paying members are aware that their contributions are used as “soft” loans for executive members.

There are also squabbles about who should give out statements, when and how. In fact, one executive member said meetings called to discuss strategy to lobby for support in the fight against Zanu PF always end up discussing “mundane administration” issues.

In fact, the current executive was appointed in an interim capacity to prepare for the election of a substantive executive but my sources said some officials are strongly against relinquishing power. Curiously, the ones refusing to leave their posts are those who have either gone for refugee hearings and were denied or are still to appear before the refugee board.

Then there are some who are said to have earmarked themselves (or might have been promised by somebody in Harare) for ministerial posts when MDC takes power “soon” but they know that if new elections are held for the branch, they will be voted out and so they are refusing to let the elections be held.

Now, having said all that, I believe it is a very good thing to have MDC represented in the Diaspora, but the party may want to be certain of the people who lead this representation.

Nuff said. Right now I will just chill and wait for what I know is coming - more vilification from MDC-Toronto.

I wonder what they are going to call me this time around. Want to know too?

Watch this space.



Fellow Zimbabweans, tino kumhoresai, siyalibingelela, wherever you are on God’s earth.

Did anybody hear what I heard? Some wise guy is said to have recommended to President Robert Mugabe to declare Australia, South Africa, Canada, the UK and US; virtual provinces of Zimbabwe and upgrade (or is it downgrade) our ambassadors and high commissioners in those countries to provincial governors.

I do not know if that is true, but in terms of Zimbabwean populations in those countries, such a suggestion would not be so crazy really. We all know, of course, that Zimbabwe is a nation asunder, its citizens driven abroad by professional deprivation, political persecution and in search of economic emancipation.

Life goes on among Zimbabweans in the Diaspora. People fall in and out of love, babies are born and given names like Sibonelo, students go to school without fear of being sent to Green Bomber camps, professionals try to make their dreams come true, people fall sick and die and we all contribute to our local communities.

We have opinions about what is happening back home and we also contribute towards the betterment of our own people and country through various means; sending money to family in Gokwe, joining political and social forums that debate issues back home and raising awareness about our national plight.

Today we introduce to you this column which will be a weekly feature in this newspaper. In this column you will read about your family, friends and just fellow Zimbabweans in the Great White North.

Canada is generally a quiet country with people who are very careful of what they say to the next person. It is often regarded as no one’s country because we all came from somewhere.

In Canada you see all colours of people, you hear all languages on earth and in the midst of this multicultural mosaic, Zimbabweans are thriving and contributing. We like to call ourselves Zim-Canucks just like Zimbabweans in Australia might want to call themselves Zim-Aussies.

Canuck is an endearing term Canadians are known with. According to Wikipedia, the Internet encyclopedia, Canuck was first recorded in 1835 to mean (ironically) Americanism.

However, we will always be Zimbabweans and this column will seek to advance our Zimbabweaness through our aspirations, desires and wishes as any people far away from home.

Each week we will give you substance on what is happening in our small world in a big and very cold country - it gets so cold here even cars freeze stiff in temperatures that can reach lows of -30 Degrees Celsius. We will tell you what we think and what we say about ourselves and our country. We will also tell you about what others think and say about us as a nation.

Generally Zimbabweans are regarded with respect here. We are better educated, we are largely humane and professional in our conduct and we often excel in what we do. However, we also get entangled in issues that affect everybody else; immigration matters and contentious matters of human relations.

Like in any big family, we also have our own rotten apples or black sheep who put our name in shame once in a while.

Well, as long as we know about it and we have the facts to back up any issue about Zim-Canucks, you will read it in this column because, in true journalism ethos, there will be no sacred cows.

We also invite you, to alert us to any issues that concern Zim-Canucks and we will be sure to discuss them on this column.

Watch this space.