/ 26 February 2010

Zuma visit to reassure investors

Zuma Visit To Reassure Investors

President Jacob Zuma will use his state visit to the United Kingdom next week to reassure international investors that nationalisation is not on the cards for South Africa — in the short term, at least.

‘The president will use the opportunity to set people’s minds at ease about the whole nationalisation debate that is going on in our country,” a senior government official told the Mail & Guardian. ‘People must know it is not government policy and that nothing will change very soon.”

This is the first, if tacit, acknowledgement from Zuma that the constant speculation about nationalisation, following frequent ANC Youth League demands for it, is an impediment to foreign investment.

Zuma will leave on Tuesday. He will be the guest of Queen Elizabeth and stay at Buckingham Palace. He will meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative Party leader David Cameron, who is likely to become prime minister after this year’s national elections, and Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg. A business delegation will accompany Zuma and will discuss trade links.

In his reply to the State of the Nation debate in Parliament last week Zuma encouraged people to ‘debate [youth league president Julius] Malema” and to stop looking to the government to shut him up. The official said this week: ‘We want to be clear that nationalisation will be no threat to investors. They shouldn’t worry about that.”

The queen invites only one head of state a year to visit her, so Zuma’s visit is seen as a coup for South African relations with Britain. Visits to the UK prime minister do not constitute state visits — they are referred to as working visits.

The trip is seen as a ‘feel-good visit” that officials expect will consolidate relations and improve trade between the two nations.

But Zuma is expected to take Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband to task about the UK’s attitude towards Zimbabwe. The European Union decided last week to extend for another year the smart sanctions slapped on Zanu-PF leaders. It said not enough progress had been made since the signing of the Global Political Agreement to warrant that they be lifted.

‘Zuma will outline that these sanctions are not helping the situation in Zimbabwe,” the official said.

‘The lifting of sanctions was what [Zimbabwe Prime Minister] Morgan [Tsvangirai] was tasked to do but he is not moving fast enough with that. And, until he does, there will be no movement from Zanu-PF’s side.”

Zuma will ask the British to support the Southern African Development Community’s attempts to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe. He will try to convince them that South Africa is taking the issue seriously because it is seen as ‘a very dangerous security threat”.

‘We are the ones who are dealing with millions of Zimbabwean immigrants to South Africa; we are the ones who have to deal with the xenophobia because of that. So we will do everything to make it go away,” the official said.

Zuma will discuss social security with the queen, but the heavyweight political discussions will be reserved for his meetings with British government and party leaders.

Visa requirements for South Africans entering the UK are a bone of contention within the South African government and will be discussed. Insiders say they should be able to convince the British to reconsider the matter once a new passport system that is less vulnerable to fraud is ready to be implemented.

On Wednesday morning a horse carriage will collect Zuma at his London hotel and take him through St James Park in central London to Buckingham Palace.

Joining Zuma will be International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Water Affairs and Environment Minister Buyelwa Sonjica and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

MaMabhija, Zuma’s latest wife, will make her first official trip as Mrs Zuma.