“Were it not for China’s funding support and the work of Chinese companies in ICT and power generation, even the statement in question would perhaps have to be scribbled down on a piece of paper, in a candlelit room, and never find its way onto a functioning internet.”
Zimbabwe and China have strong economic ties dating back to the early post-independence period.
After Zimbabwe was isolated from the European Union through sanctions in the early 2000s, Robert Mugabe, in response formulated and declared the Look East Policy in 2003- an agreement to politically and economically develop a mutual relationship.
A move that further deepened the long-lasting Sino-Zim relations adopted into the new dispensation by the Emmerson Mnangagwa regime.
Of recent, many stakeholders interested in community development, transparency, accountability and good governance are inquisitive of if the relations are of best interest to the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe.
Recently, 27 Zimbabwean civic society organizations have come out guns blazing, questioning the integrity and sincerity of Chinese mining investments in the country.
In a statement published by the Centre for Natural Resource Government, the civic groups said the Chinese ties were the opposite of beneficial to local communities.
“Our joint statement is not meant to defame China or trigger xenophobic resentments towards Chinese nationals in Zimbabwe. On the contrary, we seek fair and mutually beneficial relations between the two countries. We have however noted with deep concern the threats of displacements and mining projects in ecologically sensitive places around the country without any due regard for the concerns of the local people,” said the organizations.
The groups further insinuated that the relationship exhibited a weak foreign policy that perpetrated resentment, exploitation of natural resources and robbed the country of billions of dollars.
“ Sadly the abundance of natural resource has become the major cause of poverty, inequality, human rights abuses, environmental crimes and transnational organized crimes that prejudicing the country of billions of dollars annually and this has been going on for decades,” read the statement.
In the past, local media has documented cases of employee abuse, displacements, corrupt allocation of resources and destruction of naturally sensitive environmental areas against Chinese companies operating in Zimbabwe.
“The Chinese investors in Zimbabwe should be accountable to local communities and open to public scrutiny, starting with their contracts, their taxes and beneficial ownership,” added the civic groups, questioning the opaque nature of the Sino-Zim relations.
The statement rattled the Chinese Embassy, who in response accused the civic outfits of dubious political backgrounds, falsehoods, unprofessional, emotionally charged expressions and influenced by foreign forces.
“The statement emphasizes in particular that they are filling accusations against Chinese investments without external influence. Frankly, this claim is as superfluous as painting feet on a snake. Their accusations, if they have any confidence in them, will remain true even if the accusers are influenced, taught, paid or ordered by external forces,” China said.
Recently, the Chinese have been at each other’s throats with the ‘West’ whom they accuse of running a smear campaign to soil their operations in Zimbabwe.
In the statement, the Embassy went on to further stamp down their contribution to the Zimbabwean economy and declare itself as the knight in shining armour.
“Contrary to the claims that China and Chinese companies have no regard for the local ordinary citizen, the Chinese government, Chinese state-owned and private businesses have been making great contributions to the improvement of local people’s livelihood. What do the groups say to those drawing water from 1 000 boreholes drilled by Chinese engineers with Chinese government aid? What do they say to those spared from critical conditions by taking Covid-19 vaccines donated by China and adding up to 12 million doses this year? What do they say to those tobacco growers who are seeing good incomes by working with Chinese partners? Were it not for China’s funding support and the work of Chinese companies in ICT and power generation, even the statement in question would perhaps have to be scribbled down on a piece of paper, in a candlelit room, and never find its way onto a functioning internet,” the statement read.
The statement ended with a vivid invitation by the Chinese government to all competitors, to see who is doing more to benefit the people of Zimbabwe.
This marks a recent, of many other accusations that have been levelled against Chinese companies operating in Zimbabwe, mostly the mining companies with cases recorded in Marange, Mutoko, Hwange, Dangamvura and Binga amongst other geo-locations with similar cases.
Foreign policy experts blame the Zimbabwean government for not formally and publicly developing the Sino-Zim exploits, and not disseminating the agreements to key stakeholders and oversight institutions.