By Dr Masimba Mavaza | 41 years after independence, thousands of Zimbabwean villagers have woken up to find their entire land taken away by Chinese businessmen.
People in rural areas have been shocked, angered flabbergasted and deeply depressed by the freedom to destroy their livelihood and cultural bases given to the Chinese. Villages are being destroyed graves, defiled no consultation as people are reminded of the colonial horrors. It’s not only villages; sacred places and lives are being destroyed.
There is a vigorous debate on the environmental impact of China’s investment in Africa. Most of it occurs in the environmental advocacy community, which by its nature emphasizes the challenges, problems, and harmful impacts on the environment irrespective of the responsible country. China’s environmental record both at home and in Africa has been the subject of criticism, much of it deserved. With its own failure to observe environmental laws in its own country it is a joke to expect our all weather friends the Chinese to be alive to environment in a country far away from their country.
It is not only the environment we are looking at It is good labour practices which are usually ignored by environmental groups and the media.
The relations between Zimbabwe and China can be traced back to January 1979 during the war of liberation.
It started on the war front with ZANU led by Robert Mugabe quoting Beijing for arms after failing to get support from Soviet which was backing ZAPU led by Joshua Nkomo.
Formal diplomatic relations were established on the 18th of April 1980. The disagreement between Zimbabwe and the EU in 2003 led to capital flight and economic depression and this resulted in Zimbabwe being isolated from EU in form of targeted sanctions.
The relations between Zimbabwe and China deepened and culminated into Zimbabwe adopting a Look East Policy. This was the time when there was no where else to look as we were vilified as a nation. China came up at the time they were really wanted. It was the time when it was not fashionable to side with Zimbabwe that China stuck by us hence the all weather friend. China and Zimbabwe went on to expand bilateral and trade relations and offer priority to investors from the Asian continent. However China assumed the dominating position and the whole east became to mea China alone. Zimbabwe and China established strong economic ties which we believe to be equal and not master servant relationship.
In 2008 The late Vice President of Zimbabwe Joseph Msika praised the Chinese government for its continued support in the face of economic sanctions imposed by Western nations .
From 2000 to 2012, approximately 128 Chinese official development finance projects were identified in Zimbabwe. It was all rosy and indeed a cherishable moment.
Water infrastructure and sewerage rehabilitation to the value of US$144m to Harare City Council was constructed.
The money to rehabilitate aged water infrastructure and sewer systems was provided by China. The rehabilitation programme was expected to improve water availability and sewer treatment plants if it was not for corruption in the MDC A led Harare Council.
China constructed the state of the art new $98 million Zimbabwe National Defence College, constructed by Anhui Foreign and Economic Construction Company (AFECC) after a loan from the China Export and Import Bank, was officially opened.
The loan for the defence college is attracting 2% while its repayment period is 20 years.
This is considered a huge discount, particularly for Zimbabwe, at a time its perceived credit rating has been downgraded to zero status by multilateral lending institutions because of the external debt that was estimated to be over $8 billion. Indeed China lived to its word the National Defence College, a 3 year project was completed way ahead of schedule, and it became a symbol and physical manifestation of the Look East policy. The state-of-the-art villas, including a majestic stadium, all show the quality and value of the Chinese investments.
In all these wonderful projects being done by China problem was brewing, the Chinese did not train their citizens basic human respect.
The then Labour Minister Paurina Mupariwa branded Chinese business operations in Zimbabwe “the darkest side of capitalism perpetuated by communists. She said her party would urge Zimbabweans to boycott Chinese products in protest.
Zimbabwe saw an influx of Chinese businesses of all forms in Zimbabwe. This included Chinese coming to Zimbabwe to be lorry drivers, to cook and sale sadza. Instead of aiding development and growth of the economy, the Chinese brought nothing new except exploiting the locals & overshadowing them”.
Our all weather friends are systematically abusing Zimbabwean workers at a Chinese company there are offices black workers are not allowed to set foot. There is a very shocking pay discrepancies. The Chinese are paid ten times more than their Zimbabwean counterparts. Zimbabweans are treated like third class humanity by their Chinese employers.
Please have been put to the Zimbabwean Government to bring the matter to the attention of the Chinese government to encourage its nationals to abide by the laws of this country. Zimbabweans have been whipped shot or even killed by their Chinese employers who believe that they are more special. This behaviour has not stopped even to this day Chinese bosses behave like the incarnation of Cecil John Rhodes. The Look-East Policy has been put in place as an alternative to the West but our friends are given the whole body instead of just a hand.
Now the love given to our all weather friends has made them monsters and the loathing created should be manage now.
Zimbabweans are being deliberately removed from one form of colonialism and chained to another form of bondage.
People have been exposed to a cunning, ruthless and immoral slave master-the Chinese. The notion is that the conduct of most of the Chinese in Zimbabwe is unacceptable and the government must take action.
Chinese in Zimbabwe are flouting our employment laws. There are Zimbabwean workers abused in Chinese factories and mines and in most cases the Chinese brothers are let off the hook. Cases of summary dismissal without notice and without any compensation are rife and there is no recourse.
Female employees impregnated by their Chinese bosses and giving birth to Chinese babies after being coerced to have unprotected sex some actually rapped and the police bribed to silence.
Our own Zimbabweans are subjected to long working hours, very little pay, unsanitary working conditions in clear violation of Zimbabwe’s labor laws and clear disregard for workers’ rights. We have no record of a Chinese company which was ever hauled to a labour court for violating our labour laws.
The Chinese have shown clear disregards of our values.
There is a flagrant denial of compassionate leave to go and bury relatives due to customary and cultural differences.
The most painful and disrespectful insult by our all weather friends is when Workers are not even allowed to recognise any of the Zimbabwean holidays and are only allowed to recognise the Chinese Lunar New Year on 22nd January. Surely this is not the east we decided to look. We might be under sanctions but we are still covered in our respect and dignity. We are Zimbabweans.
The presence of the Chinese must be a benefit for both parties. Is such an arrangement a benefit for both parties one might ask.
We seem to do well- we get to consume products without producing them, and money for capital investment without having to save.The Chinese get to process those raw materials into products they don’t consume, but sell them for a fortune to the world. China’s capital investments, technology, skills and money to Zimbabwe are not earmarked for processing commodities, but to expedite the extraction of commodities at low cost. It is clear that our benefits are short lived. We must all remember that Commodity exports cannot lead to sustained economic growth as they are vulnerable to international prices which we don’t have control over. The challenge is to generate productive jobs and livelihoods for many people.Value addition has a higher potential for employment creation.
￼Now Zimbabweans in the depth of our Zimbabweaness are being evicted from their villages by the Chinese. China is not doing anything to promote value addition in Zimbabwe. It is spreading its ugly teeth in our base. Our villages.
As we write villagers in Uzumba, Mashonaland East province, are up in arms against a Chinese company, Heijin Mining, whose black granite mining claim covers the entire village.
The Mashonaland East provincial mining commissioner was engaged by the villagers. It is a shame that in issues like this our people will be represented by non governmental organisations or Human rights lawyers. What is the government telling people. When you need help who comes to help you. This is a serious negative vibes we are sending to those who are close to us.
A letter was copied to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA). and published in the press as follows “Our clients are residents of Kaseke village in Uzumba together with his clan, the Kaseke clan. Our client advises that Heijin Mining Company purports to be a holder of mining blocks in Kaseke village and officials from the said mining company and from the ministry have proceeded to peg the whole of our client’s village without consulting our clients,” the letter read.
“Our clients advise that the pegs cover their homesteads, grazing areas and cultivating fields. To that end, we kindly request any prospecting licence that was granted to Heijin Mining Company,” the letter further read.
The invasion of Kaseke village has irked traditional leaders, among them Chief Nyajina, who is encouraging his subjects to resist the takeover of the land.
“In the event that a prospecting licence was granted to Heijin Mining Company, it is our considered view that the pegging of Kaseke village is unlawful in terms of Section 31(1) of the Mines and Minerals Act, a holder of a prospecting licence shall not exercise any of the rights conferred in the licence on communal land without the consent of the occupier. The pegging of Kaseke village without the consultation of occupiers is, therefore, unlawful.”
“Further in terms of section 31(1) of the Mines and Minerals Act, no holder of a prospecting licence can proceed to peg communal land occupied as a village without the written consent of the rural district council of the area concerned,” the letter added.
These events are alienating the Zimbabwean people from their Chinese counterparts. The Chinese are using bullying and vicious threats.
When one thinks of the whole villages pegged off to Chinese without community consultations or without consulting the mediums of these areas you are left to wonder what their social purpose is and whose interests are being represented.
Besides the villages the Chinese are occupying areas preserved for locals like retailing.
The generosity of Zimbabwe to Chinese investors is threatening the livelihoods of thousands of villagers in a rural areas all over Zimbabwe. We have villagers being evicted in Murehwa together with our cultural inheritance. We have villagers to be evicted in Domboshava as Chinese have been given authority to mine.
The Zimbabweans are asking if there is any amount of money which is worthy destroying a whole culture.
We must be wary of putting investment ahead of life. Villages are facing destructions. We must learn from Zambia. The opposition was made to win because Zambians were not happy with the upper hand given to the Chinese.
We must not lose our support in order to please our all weather friends. We must protect our inheritance and heritage. There can never be Zimbabwe without a village.
We need to appeal to the President to intervene. We know that the president is not being told the truth. It is time now that Zimbabwe sides with its people. We can not blossom without our roots. Zimbabwe is our only country we can call ours in the whole world.
Save our villages.