At the last meeting with Mugabe, in 2007, business leaders had drawn criticism by kowtowing to Mugabe.
In their meeting him at the time, held amid damaging price controls and arrests of over 5 000 businesspeople, they had apologised to Mugabe for “letting you down as there exists a glaring gap between your goals and our performance as an economy”.
The leaders today were again careful not to offend Mugabe, praising his ZimAsset and Ten-Point Plan policies for being responsible for the few positive developments they said had happened in the economy over recent months.
“We thank you Your Excellency for your leadership and support for these initiatives,” the business leaders said.
“We appreciate your clarion calls for an agenda for industrialisation within SADC and in Africa during your tenure as Chairman of SADC which have resulted in industrialization becoming a lead issue in SADC.”
Their praise did not stop Mugabe from displaying the contempt that has seen him refuse to engage big business for a decade.
Mugabe told the meeting that his major disagreement with them was their support for foreign investment over more local ownership.
He gave the meeting a lengthy lecture on the liberation struggle, saying the lesson was necessary for the business leaders to see that they were now free to start their own businesses without foreign help.
“The country was liberated. Must we continue to depend on whites to set up the companies?” Mugabe said.
He once again took a dig at South Africa, for the third time inside a month, saying the ruling African National Congress (ANC) had only delivered political freedom but left the economy in the hands of whites.
“I made comments about South Africa and (ANC secretary general) Gwede Mantashe stupidly reacts. They (South Africa) fought only to remove apartheid. Ours was just not political freedom,” Mugabe said.
Zimbabwean business leaders needed to stop relying on foreign investment and start their own businesses, he said.
“Start, start your own; they will grow in time,” he said, adding the country must not rely on the World Bank and the AfDB.
Among the key proposals by the business leaders was clarity on 51 percent local ownership empowerment laws, blamed largely for investor flight over the past 10 years.
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