They still labelled all those valiantly and commendably speaking out against their companies’ wanton abuse and trampling on ordinary Zimbabweans, and their workers’, rights, as “Western-sponsored media outlets and NGOs”.
Tendai Ruben Mbofana
They still tried to portray the relentless and brave exposure of their companies’ despicable displacement of villagers from their ancestral lands, and flagrant desecration of their forefathers’ graves and heritage sites, as acts of anti-government agents, who were against national development.
Yet, in the same breath, they still came up with a nine-point document spelling out how their businesses operating in Zimbabwe should conduct their business affairs.
The statement, which was touted by the state-controlled Zimbabwe media as “the first of its kind” – practically admitted that Chinese companies operating in this country were savagely riding roughshod over impoverished Zimbabweans, and virtually affirmed and buttressed what these supposed “Western-sponsored media outlets” have been exposing all along.
Firstly, how does one come up with a document that controls and guides how “[Chinese] companies should conduct business, from obtaining relevant paperwork, to how they should interact with communities and the media” – if their operations and behavior had not been questionable and dubious to begin with?
Let us remember that laws, rules, and regulations are normally formulated to curb a problem that is already in existence.
When God gave the ten commandments, it meant that the Israelites were already doing those things that He declared “sinful and unacceptable”.
If they were not worshipping other gods, lying, stealing, killing, or committing adultery – God would never have given them those laws!
As such, for the so-called Chamber of Chinese Enterprises in Zimbabwe (claimed to be a grouping of 80 Chinese companies operating in the country) to come up with this nine-point document, “spelling out how their businesses in the southern African country should conduct their business affairs” – is a tacit admission of the fact that they needed to be reined in, on account of their misguided and villainous acts against the citizenry, especially powerless and vulnerable villagers, who could not stand up for themselves.
There would have been no need for these Chinese companies to be controlled on how to “comply with local laws and regulations, as well as traditions and sensitivities”, if they were not doing exactly the opposite.
As a matter of fact, the same report alleged that these business enterprises had “acknowledged the lack of enforcement of laws and monitoring of Chinese projects by Zimbabwean officials, resulting in pitfalls, such as conflict with local communities”.
Oh, so there were, indeed, law enforcement “pitfalls”, that resulted in “conflict with local communities”?
Why then, when these same accusations were loudly and unequivocally raised by independent media and human rights defenders, they were repeatedly denied by the Chinese (including their government) – with disingenuous counter-accusations (in typical ad hominem fashion) of these being acts of “Western-sponsored media outlets and NGOs”?
Or, are these Chinese, and their Zimbabwean regime “partners-in-crime”, trying to tell the country that, indeed, “Western-sponsored media and others” actually report the truth, and should be trusted as credible sources of facts – including deplorable rights violations, and the oppression of ordinary citizens in the country?
There can no longer be any denying the facts – Chinese companies in Zimbabwe have caused more harm than good for our country and its people.
What benefit is there when the hapless people of Binga, in Matebeleland North province, are given a three-month notice to vacate their ancestral land, after a Chinese mining company was granted permission to extract coal in the area?
Furthermore, these evictions are seldom done after genuine consultations with the affected communities – with a marked rise in the number of human rights abuses over the last decade, by Chinese investors in Zimbabwe’s mining sector, especially in areas endowed with natural resources, with hardly any significant strides in developing those communities.
This has, understandably, led to widespread resistance and disdain of this supposed investment – with some affected communities, as those in Uzumba (Mashonaland East province) even threatening not to vote for the ruling ZANU PF party in future elections – leading to president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, rushing to revoke the mining licence, since this is traditionally his party’s stronghold.
As if that was not terrible enough, there are unacceptably high levels of opaqueness surrounding accountability to local communities, and openness to public scrutiny, by these companies – beginning with their contracts, their taxes, and beneficial ownership.
As much as we desperately need foreign direct investment (FDI) – for the resurgence of an economy that has been brazenly crippled through widespread mismanagement, and repulsive high-level looting – however, we are definitely not that desperate as to allow ourselves to be turned into slaves and subjects of any investor.
We have already endured 90 years of British colonial subjugation – having attained our independence on April 18, 1980 – and, we will never permit another era of colonialism, this time by the Chinese.
We welcome anyone who desires truly “win-win” opportunities, including from China – that are beneficial to the ordinary population, not merely the ruling elite – and, those from whom we can learn from, in order to develop our own country.
Zvehudzvanyiriri taramba – and, if the Chinese expect respect from Zimbabweans, they need to start respecting us.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: email@example.com