Today we welcome back guest blogger Andrew Field with tales from his beloved country Zimbabwe
Quite recently, war veterans who had played a role in Zimbabwe’s disastrous land ‘reforms’,found themselves victim of evictions from the very land they had once ‘liberated’. This time around, Zimbabwe’s nouveau colonialists, the Chinese, were responsible, according to recent press. Nouveaucolonialists? One can hear the protestations to that phrase! This insignificant story about land occupation may get people thinking a little more about Chinese intentions in Zimbabwe, perhaps even greater Africa.
Clearly, there are an enormous number of myths about the Chinese in Africa, but there are equally a good number of home truths too, which need to be questioned. The Chinese have been accused in the past of propping up the corrupt regime in Harare, in exchange for access to certain resources, some of them rich beyond our wildest dreams. But true to form, Zimbabwe’s shaky coalition remains opaque about the influx of Chinese investment and her nationals too, and one has to question why?
The western media is aplomb with the view that our good friends, the Chinese, are on a quest for oil and mineral resources in Africa. There is a fear that Africa’s vast and potentially prolific agricultural lands, once farmed by the old school colonials, may one day provide the paddy fields of Chinese sustenance. The question is, at what price? All too often, investment and influence come with strong strings attached, leaving African nations mortgaging their resources to the hilt. This is why Africa supposedly rejected colonialism some forty years and more ago, according to some, and so too we are often reminded.
Deborah Brautigam, author of ‘The Dragon’s Gift, The Real Story of China in Africa’, quite rightly points out that Chinese interest in Africa is nothing new. Migration to Africa from China has been ongoing for two centuries and aid flows commenced in the early 1960’s, as newly independent nations emerged from their colonial cocoons. Some seem to be ignoring the increased rapidity of migration, investment and aid flows during recent years. Annual trade between Africa and China is edging towards the US$100 billion mark. China has also created bilateral relations with oppressive states and she has turned a blind eye to alleged war crimes and human rights abuses in the process.
In July 2009, it was reported that the People Republic of China had provided a US$950 million loan to the Zimbabwean Government to rebuild the African nation’s shattered economy. Whether those funds eventually flowed, or how they were secured, what resources were mortgaged (apparently platinum), and which filthy politicians siphoned off their share, appears not to be for public consumption. More recently the Chinese are back this time funding 2G and 3G networks, not to mention, so some will allege, top secret eavesdropping gear too.
Co-incidentally, there is much rumour and speculation concerning the Chinese involvement in the new found wealth of Zimbabwe, Chiadzwa diamonds. Stories abound of Chinese military involvement in the diamond fields, the establishment of runways, the arrival and departure of huge Antanov aircraft in the dark of night, and even the establishment of a diamond sorting and cutting operation on the outskirts of Mutare, capital of the Eastern Highlands. Is any of this true? The substance of such conjecture may never be known.
Western Sinophobes protest aghast. One thing Zimbabwe’s former colonial masters seem not to come terms with is the nature of Chinese-African integration into the community, understanding of local custom, language and tradition, while pulling strongly at dominant political party strings. Enter strong mutual ties between the Chinese Communist Party and ZANU (PF), just one element of the coalition government, the ‘liberation party’ so to speak. Herein lays the real problem for Zimbabweans.
How can regime change ever be affected, if that is what the people want, when the very pillars of government, the forces of law and order, the military, and some will suggest the judiciary too, admit and operate on stringent party partisan lines? The devotee party shares its bed with the only party of its one party state benefactor.
Can Chinese patronage change from the liberation party, with whom it shares deeply ingrained philosophies, to any successor party which does not? Many think not. The only salvation for Zimbabwe would be massive Western investment which, hitherto, our liberators seem keen to reject and the West seems reluctant to initiate investment, as opposed to giving aid. The nouveaucolonialism will be very subtle.