When CBZ Holdings appointed Marc Holtzman as the financial services group’s chairperson, observers were quick to say Zimbabwe was now intensifying its plans to push for the lifting of a hefty fine imposed on the group’s banking unit by the United States-based Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
They were probably right given his experience in the United States.
Since his appointment last September, Holtzman, an American and 30- year banking veteran, who has worked at Barclays Plc and ABN Amro Bank NV, has set up a new management team and hired law firm Dentons to deal with the OFAC case.
His appointment came after Akribos Wealth Managers (Akribos) has bulked up a 26% plus stake in the listed financial group and Harare is seeking stronger commercial ties with Russian-linked countries.
In a sigh of relief, Zimbabwe’s largest bank, CBZ said the U.S. Treasury Department has cleared it of having to pay a US$385m penalty for processing transactions on behalf of a local lender that was under American sanctions.
The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control reviewed more than 15,000 transactions carried out by CBZ Holdings for ZB Bank between 2009 and 2014.
Following the review, OFAC said in a letter dated August 24 that CBZ won’t face a penalty or sanctions. For authorities, this came in as sweet music.
A joint statement between Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and newly appointed Agriculture minister Anxious Masuku on the compensation of evicted white former commercial farmers was also seen as a step in the right direction, at least for now.
Zimbabwe’s economy is in a precarious position.
With experts projecting that sub-Saharan countries like Zimbabwe may only recover after three years, there is no better time for Zimbabwe to intensify her reengagement effort.
That will be a herculean task given the government’s stance on its international affairs.
On Friday, the Heads of Mission of Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America blamed authorities for using Covid-19 as an excuse to stifle citizens’ rights.
“Two years ago in his inaugural speech, President Mnangagwa vowed to serve the country and all its people. It is in this spirit that the Heads of Mission express their deep concern with the current political, economic, social and health crisis that most Zimbabweans are facing today,” the diplomats said in a statement.
“The Zimbabwean people have the right to engage in dialogue to build a better future for their country.
But the necessary discussions have so far been hindered by unhelpful rhetoric and blame assigned to several groups including diplomatic missions and non-state actors.
We ask the government to move away from such language and instead to deliver on its long-promised reforms and reach across the divides.”
Authorities in Zimbabwe seem to push for a realist approach seeing shadows and the work of the invisible hand in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.
It is a complex world but Zimbabwe stands to benefit when she embraces the international community.