I am a ZISCOSTEEL product. Born and bred in the iron and steel making small town of Redcliff.
As with most towns and cities in Zimbabwe – Redcliff was built entirely by companies that opened their operations in the country during colonial Rhodesia.
Our own small town was constructed by the then Rhodesia Iron and Steel Company (RISCOM, later renamed RISCO, and then ZISCOSTEEL after independence in 1980).
Who can forget the various suburbs, the wonderful houses, well-equipped schools, immaculate streets, efficient water and sewage systems, world-class sporting facilities, splendid medical centers, well-maintained parks, and of course, workers who were paid reasonable and timely wages that managed to provide a decent livelihood to all of us?
Oh yes, we were ferried to our nearest high school, in Kwekwe, on ZISCOSTEEL buses, and our fees paid for by the company.
Such was the scene in numerous other towns and cities, as QueQue (Kwekwe), Selukwe (Shurugwi), Shabane (Zvishavane), Wankie (Hwange), and the list goes on and on – who were constructed by mainly British companies that operated in those areas.
In this discourse, I will not delve much in the heart-rending and cruel manner in which these once prosperous and enviable towns and cities were eventually turned into ghost-towns – after incessant and unashamed looting of these companies by the post-independence ruling elite (after they had been nationalized) leading to their inevitable catastrophic demise.
This plundering is a well-known and documented fact – with a commission of enquiry having been set up in the early 2000s to investigate this grand theft at ZISCOSTEEL, revealing senior regime officials, company executives, and their hangers-on, primarily being responsible for its subsequent huge losses, disappearance of assets, lack of productivity, and failure in maintaining equipment.
As to be expected, those fingered by this commission of enquiry were protected by the ruling establishment, their names never revealed to the nation, and no action ever taken against them – in spite of a chorus of outrage by the public.
I remember writing an emotional article in 1991 – when I was doing my Lower Six (Form Five) at Kwekwe High School – in a local weekly newspaper, passionately warning of the imminent collapse of this iron and steel giant, if the relentless plundering, and unforgivable mismanagement continued.
Yet, all I received was ridicule and contemptuous comments from the Redcliff community – to the effect that, I were naive, as there was no way such a huge company, which formed the foundation of Zimbabwe, could be allowed to fail by the government.
Well, need I mention that, exactly twenty years later, ZISCOSTEEL closed its gates, and thousands of employees were left hanging high and dry – with so many still, today, not having received even a single cent of their terminal benefits… including my own mother, who toiled and sweated for that company, as a nurse, since 1964.
Needless to say, today, these companies – which used to be the pride of the nation, and backbone of the country (similarly, making those of us, whose parents worked for them, an envy of many) – have since turned into homes of baboons and monkeys, and (I am sure) various species of snakes, and other creepy creatures.
My focus of the article, though – fearing the danger of getting distracted by this most painful destruction of our beautiful country, and our livelihoods, by a callous and insensitive kleptomaniac selfish ruling elite – is in our new colonizers…the Chinese.
These ‘all-weather friends’ of those in power in Zimbabwe have proven to be no better than the thieving, looting, and cruel people running (or, more appropriately, ruining) our nation – whose interests appear driven only by what they can get out of this country, and not at all concerned about what they can put in.
Indeed, the colonial British plundered our resources, and oppressed our people – yet, they made every effort to ensure that their ‘slaves’ had some semblance of a decent and comfortable live.
Even domestic workers had their own relatively dignified accommodation – with single quarters within the premises of their employers, and high density suburbs for those who were married…Rutendo in Redcliff, have being built for that purpose.
However, what have these Chinese done for the people of Zimbabwe? How have they improved our livelihoods?
Ask anyone who is employed by companies owned by these people, and their stories are the same – savage treatment, poor salaries, and practically no provision of any dignified housing and amenities.
All these so-called ‘investors’ have managed to do is mercilessly degrade our environment with their mines and exploration of minerals, desecrating local communities’ heritage sites and graves, and forcing them off their ancestral lands.
Over the nearly twenty years that the Chinese have become the pariah Zimbabwe regime’s ‘besties’ – more so, after falling out of favor with their Western allies due to the chaotic and murderous land acquisitions of the early 2000s – ordinary citizens have never witnessed any peace and development.
Workers have been wantonly beaten up (and, even shot dead), and treated as second class citizens in their own motherland.
Not a single town, no matter how small, has been constructed by these Chinese – let alone, schools, hospitals, and housing – with local communities being relegated into homelessness, and not getting any benefits from their own vast resources.
The question then is, “Who is benefiting from this exploitative and abusive relationship between China and Zimbabwe?”
It is, most certainly, not ordinary Zimbabweans – who have endured nothing but unbearable pain and suffering at the hands of the Chinese.
@ Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org