ZIMBABWE – The Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW) produced a book “Win win partnership? China, Southern Africa and the Extractive Industries”. The book adds to the growing criticism on China’s investments in Zimbabwe.
There have been some misplaced statements in the media and other social platforms which suggest that China is a new coloniser of Zimbabwe. China has been accused of expropriating Zimbabwe’s resources. Accusations abound that the Sino-Zimbabwe relation is only beneficial to a small political elite. China is also accused of pursuing elitist infrastructural development projects
Such criticisms obviously come from people whose interests are threatened by the symbiotic relationship existing between Zimbabwe and China. Zimbabwe looked east after the West imposed illegal sanctions that were meant to bleed the economy and subsequently spark revolts. The sanctions are fast losing steam due to all-weather friends like China and Russia which have steadfastly stood by Zimbabwe. The West and their allies obviously cannot be excited by a relationship that impedes the intended objectives of their sanctions.
This reminds me of a church sermon I heard about the resurrection of Lazarus. The preacher explained that when Lazarus was resurrected, all the relatives who had been given his clothes as inheritance were ordered to return them. Some even received the news while dressed in the newly acquired clothes. On their way from Lazarus’ home, some were bitterly blaming Jesus for resurrecting Lazarus. However, their bitterness did not stop the resurrection.
Not all people rejoice when one is resurrected politically, socially and economically as some benefit from that political and socio-economic death. In the same vein, the West and their allies had no reason to rejoice when China and other Asian countries economically resurrected Zimbabwe, as that resurrection threatened their hegemonic interests.
The Sino-Zimbabwe relationship does not resemble colonialism. China’s investment in Zimbabwe is based on win-win joint ventures that have benefited the country. The country is now realising dividends accrued from the win-win joint ventures.
This is in contrast to the set up that was obtaining when Western mining companies such as the Anglo-American Corporations controlled the sector. The Government only received meagre taxes and royalties that were remitted. Apart from remitting crumbs to Government, these Western mining companies had no corporate social responsibility policies to benefit the local communities. The poor communities were left with nothing to show for their God-given mineral resources save for the vast tracts of degraded land. The local people only participated in the mining activities as cheap labourers.
It is being dishonesty to say that the Chinese investments only benefit the elite. The Community Share Ownership Trusts are benefiting none other than an ordinary villager in Marange. The schools and clinics that were built in Marange are not benefiting the elite. The villagers, who have been living in abject poverty and squalid conditions in Chiadzwa for centuries, are now living in houses that match those in Harare suburbs.
China, through the China International Fund Consortium, recently pledged to fund a high speed train service that will link Harare and Bulawayo. This service is not meant for the elite. The Chinese will also upgrade the Beitbridge-Harare and Harare-Chirundu highways. These infrastructures will not go to Beijing, but will be left behind for generations to come.
The Chinese are building shopping malls and hotels whose revenues will find their way into the national purse and subsequently used for social development. The Chinese built the Chinhoyi and Mahusekwa hospitals. I wonder if the Zimbabwean situation has become that bad for central and district hospitals to become the preserve of the elite.
The irony of it is that China is the biggest trading partner of the United States and many other European hypocrites. Hillary Clinton was recently in China to bolster what she called positive, co-operative and comprehensive relationship for the 21st century.
If China’s presence in Zimbabwe is not beneficial to the ordinary person, then whose presence is benefiting the same? The US for instance, has been pre-occupied with projects that border on regime change in Zimbabwe. Through the Public Affairs section of its local embassy, the US has been organising inciteful debates and screening films at the Quill Club and Book Café.
It also came up with programmes for journalists like the Women Journalists Mentoring Programme where Zimbabwean women journalists are placed under the tutelage of veteran Western journalists for a year. These programmes are meant to subject the journalists to intense political and ideological indoctrination. One graduate of this programme confided in this writer that some of their mentors are CIA operatives. I wonder if these projects are tailored to benefit the ordinary men in Buhera, Kuwadzana or Esigodini.
In rare times that the ordinary person is considered, some political strings are attached. For instance, the USAID, AusAID and DFID among others, have been doling out food handouts on political leanings. Such perishable projects cannot be compared with China’s long term and empowering projects. If what China is doing in Zimbabwe is akin to colonialism, then that term must be redefined.