China puts its stamp on Zimbabwean economy

via China puts its stamp on Zimbabwean economy –  The Asahi Shimbun November 04, 2013 by Tadashi Sugiyama

Under the iron grip of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s economy lies in ruins and human rights abuses are rampant.

Yet, the country once known as Africa’s “bread basket” is attracting Chinese firms in ever-growing numbers.

Western companies left Zimbabwe long ago, unable to tolerate the policies of the now 89-year-old Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980.

China is keen to exploit Zimbabwe’s vast mineral resources and restore its ability to be a leading producer of crops.

Mugabe is no darling of the West. But his landlocked country in southern Africa welcomes the growing Chinese interest, even though ordinary citizens are clearly wary.

The farming village of Chinhoyi is located roughly 100 kilometers northwest of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. Fields operated by local farmers flank the main road. The harvest is finished, the dry season has begun and the grass is withered and flattened.

Suddenly, a vast tract of verdant farmland comes into view. Countless automatic sprinklers shower the fields with water. The sight is reminiscent of the days when Zimbabwe was a model of agricultural ingenuity for the rest of Africa.

But it is the red flag of China that flies over this land these days. Smartly attired Chinese in suits come and go.

The land was a white-owned farm that was seized by the Mugabe administration. A Chinese company has operated it for around three years under a contract with the Zimbabwean government.

According to a manager there, the 5,000-hectare farm grows wheat, soybeans, tobacco and other crops that are harvested twice a year. There are plans to expand the farm to 8,000 hectares in the near future. The manager said 20 Chinese and 500 Zimbabweans work the farm.

In addition to direct management, Chinese companies are sprouting across the country, drawing up contracts with individual Zimbabwean farmers.

One top Zimbabwean official has a contract with a Chinese company to sell agricultural produce from 200 hectares of formerly white-owned farmland now in his possession. His workers use fertilizer and pesticide provided at no cost by the company. He sells the harvested tobacco wholesale to the company.

“Chinese companies pay good money,” the Zimbabwean official said. “Of course I welcome Japanese companies, too, but I wonder whether they’ll do anything for me that the Chinese don’t do already.”

On the other hand, Commercial Farmers Union President Charles Taffs says he has lost all his farmland.

“I made that farmland,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense (for Chinese companies to run it).”


Chinese companies are also significantly expanding operations in businesses related to Zimbabwe’s vast mineral wealth, such as gold, diamonds and chromium.

About 60 kilometers north of Harare, a dirt road in Mashonaland Central Province, northern Zimbabwe, leads to a gold mine. There, Chinese-made trucks and heavy machinery work at full capacity. A Zimbabwean guard wears an armband marked “People’s Republic of China–Security” in Chinese. An election poster for Mugabe hangs near the entrance.

Not far from the mine is a simple building housing Chinese engineers. There is also a field growing Chinese vegetables like green onion and garland chrysanthemum. Engineers can be found playing mah-jongg in a small room.

The site, which is home to 12 Chinese, employs 150 Zimbabweans. None of the Chinese is fluent in English, the country’s official language. The only thing one Chinese man, apparently the boss, said in English was, “Business, good. Gold, many.”

According to Joe, a 55-year-old miner, conditions deteriorated after the mine’s management switched from a British company to the Chinese one.

“Pay and safety have both declined. Even when we’re working 200 meters below ground, the Chinese won’t take measures to prevent cave-ins,” Joe said.

He said the Chinese firm is expanding the scale of extraction at nearby gold mines.

An economist with the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce weighed in with this observation: “We are becoming economically colonized by China. Laborers at Chinese companies are working under tragically bad conditions. They’re practically treated like slaves.”


Zimbabwe, formerly called Rhodesia, was once a British colony. The white minority continued to rule the land even after other African countries began gaining independence in the 1950s.

Mugabe, who fought a war of independence in the name of “ethnic liberation,” has run the country as the “hero of the people” since winning its freedom in 1980.

China had supported Mugabe’s independence movement in the past, and in 2002 it quickly strengthened both economic and military ties with Zimbabwe.

This was after a deterioration in relations with the West when the Mugabe administration began seizing large white-owned farms in 2000.

Zimbabwe, suffering under Western economic sanctions, formulated its “Look East” diplomatic policy, placing a greater emphasis on Asia, and strengthening economic ties with China became a way for it to escape its difficulties.

China, meanwhile, has its eyes on Zimbabwe’s abundant mineral resources and high agricultural productivity.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called Zimbabwe “an old friend,” and China has used this relationship to accelerate its companies’ forays into the Zimbabwean economy.

In the presidential election held in July, Western countries backed Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is sympathetic to their interests.

There was hope that a change in government would lead to a revival of economic relations, but the results gave Mugabe a landslide victory.

According to press reports, Mugabe met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 24. Mugabe said, “China is our most trustworthy partner.”


  • comment-avatar
    Shame 9 years ago

    I feel very sorry for the writer’s tone. The story makes a very sad reading. Like someone just lost a beloved wife to the man next door, and wants the whole wide world to see how unjust th earth is.

    whilst we commiserate with evrything else-loss of farms, mining rights, super profits, the right to colonise..blurh blurh ..blurh., it is not fair to accept lies.
    “…The land was a white-owned farm that was seized by the Mugabe administration…”
    Whites never owned land in Zimbabwe,how can that be possible? One,whites do not belong and two, no Zimbabwean sold land to whites: so how can anyone own anything unless he bought it in a legally valid arms length deal? Or unless he inherits by descednt?If you buy from a thief,or inherit stolen property, that surely makes you the second thief. And, please Mr Writer, no-one seized anyone’s land in the 20th century. ‘Seize land’is better used to explain how Rhodes apropriated ZDzimbahwe lands to his mother’s cousins and her mother’s mother’s brothers and sisters, in simple, hios kith and kin. By the year 2000, it was deemed fit by the Dzimbahwe descendents to reverse that nonsense. Surely you can’t call that seizing white land. Lets be carefull how we use these posssesive pronouns and adjectives of place, time, ownership and so forth. You end up scribing lies and misleading the readership.
    Shame, shame, shame

    • comment-avatar
      mucha 9 years ago

      Thanx Shame for the observation. The same anti-Communist sentiments of the Cold War era by the West. The writer repeats same article under different Headline may be to please the West. (See story on last week’s headlines)

    • comment-avatar
      Lizi Nkala 9 years ago

      These people continue to make us lough by their saying “white owned farms” They should continue to cry and the more they cry, the more we take our land and the more we take our mines and all our God-Given resources. They should go to Europe and leave us alone. We will never listen to them and they can go on wating their time and in a way their shouts are becoming entertainment for us. When they become a bit quiet, we take more of what is ours so that they can cry and shout for more of our entertainment. Cry the beloved country. These muggots should go where they came from. So, SHAME, YOU ARE VERY CORRECT.

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    Nesbert Majoni 9 years ago

    Whether the farms were for the whites or not the point is there was no need to sieze it from them in such a violent manner. The white man was treating his blurer with dignity. That is the point. Your Chinese friends are traeting the workers like slaves.

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      Pastor 9 years ago

      Foreign investors are no longer just companies from western countries. Most fierce competitors come from countries like China, India, Mexico, the Middle East, Nigeria, as well as South Africa.Africa needed “quality” investors as well as expertise and capital injections to extract the resources that it boosts of having.And if we make unreasonable demands, the quality investors do not quarrel with you, they just leave quietly, and you will be left to the mercy of chancers, or bottom feeders, who promise you the moon, and deliver nothing, and also rip you off.THIS IS EXACTLY OUR CURRENT SITUATION OF OUR BLESSED NATION. ONLY THE ZANU-PF PEOPLE ENJOY THEIR LIVES. WHAT ABOUT US ?
      I do not care what colour the cat is, as long as it catches mice.Blood is red, the sky is blue and U.S dollars are green for everyone.The ‘mice’ are ‘decent jobs’ and some food on our tables.

  • comment-avatar
    Zvapasipano 9 years ago

    We wl die in colonialism. From Britain to China who is next ? Varume handei kuhondo zvekare tinofira muutapwa .

  • comment-avatar
    mucha 9 years ago

    A vast tract of verdant farmland comes into view with countless automatic sprinklers showering the fields with water. The 5,000-hectare farm grows wheat, soybeans, tobacco and other crops that are harvested twice a year and there are plans to expand the farm to 8,000 hectares in the near future. 20 Chinese and 500 Zimbabweans work the farm.

    So what’s the issue here?

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    Shebah 9 years ago

    Majoni we choose who we want to invest in our land after all its our land. At the moment we are happy with the Chinese help. Its much better than the White man’s help. Just check how much the Chinese have invested in Zimbabwe even during sanctions, mining, power stations, agriculture, retail, they even offered to build a cube train Byo to Harare. And what is the white man offering – sanctions.

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    Africanson 9 years ago

    Chinese are being welcome everywhere, its up to the gvt of the day to negociate better deals. In SA Chinese are going to build a city of world standard. Does it mean SA is being colonised by china? Zimbabwe must welcome everyone willing to invest but negociate.

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    msizeni silwelani 9 years ago

    When we turn farm houses into schools/clinic instead of building one that is development, when we offer Chinese what we have grabbed instead of virgin land that is development, not only white occupied land was invaded. Some perceived black farm owners and business owners lost extensively to this Zanu pf political madness. Remember Mutumwa, mthuli, musengi and others whose suffering has never been publicised.

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    Shebah 9 years ago

    Msezeni, Mutumwa used to boast that he bought that company without paying a cent, so he lost just the opportunity which he failed to protect by failing to managed the PECLIST, political part of it. When we dont have money and out children need to attend education, indeed we turn farm houses into class rooms and clinics, thats innovation. That is the reason why all shops in Harare are being down sized the Chinese way, the Chinese taught us to utilize space, thats development.

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    Nyoni 9 years ago

    A pertinent question we all must ask ourselves is “Are the Asian investments benefiting our country as a whole”. With so many Zimbabweans out of the country and unemployed we must reflect on who is really benefiting.

  • comment-avatar
    Shebah 9 years ago

    Nyoni those Zimbabweans who have remained behind are benefiting in a very big way. We can now afford to buys vehicles, and not one, we can afford houses, and not one. Next time you visit Harare you will be lost in a sea of vehicles, thats development, did you expect every one to be a CEO.

  • comment-avatar

    This is ridiculous! Hw many houses,vehicles do u have…under whose expense? U ar one of these murders,selfish,arrogant,insensitive Zanu pf persons. To hell w your support to starvation,joblessness of many to your self enrichment.

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    Shebah 9 years ago

    Bravo I have three cars two houses build a nice farm house for myself. My tobacco crop is so promising this season, I am sure I will buy two more houses and make myself comfortable. Next year I will afford a holiday just like the white men used to do. How do you like that.

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    Pastor 9 years ago

    The Chinese laid out a strategy of tying land rights in the perimeter of urban areas to card-carrying membership in Mugabe’s ruling party, according to an intelligence agency document. “[A]bsolute neutralization of the enemy is recommended when necessary,”. “Hostile votes will lead to loss of land entitlement.”According to CIO documents, Mugabe’s benefactors in the Chinese Communist Party also provided and installed short wave jammers to disrupt “enemy radio stations domiciled in hostile areas” and updated old jamming equipment, particularly for use in rural areas. Traditional leaders in rural areas were seen as allies. Insiders, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that deals were cut with traditional leaders to facilitate “assisted” voting.The strategy called for security forces to deploy thousands of armed young men “ward by ward,”. In addition to the army–kept on standby–over 35,000 youth were trained and deployed to areas expected to vote against the president. Youth, one intelligence organization document stated, must be armed with “assault rifles to aid mobilization and stem resistance,” coordinated by provincial leaders. The documents show deployment of youth to specific provinces under military leaders described as provincial coordinators.

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    Chivulamapoti 9 years ago

    Shenah and her cars again, she’s obsessed. Shame and Nkala don’t realize that they are as bad if not worse than Rhodes. Nkala and Shame stole the land from the Khoisan, Mapungubwe, Chewe, Lemba (builders of Great Zimbabwe), MKaranga, zeZulu and nDebele. Shona were late comers to the party, so get out Shebah, Shame and Miss Lizi! You Colonists!

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    Graham Brooks 9 years ago

    Its quite amazing that those ‘WHITE’ farmers mentioned above that were and still are Zimbabwean citizens are only referred to as white farmers even though not only they but their fathers their grandfathers and in many cases their great grandfathers were actually born there so we are only talking of the colour of their skin, what a shame.
    These people have been robbed of their land purely on racial grounds, in any other country outside of Africa this would be illegal.
    If the indigenous Zimbabwean black or white thinks that he will one day be rid of the Chinese and have Zim for himself let him think again, their grip will get even tighter than it has ever been before and they will drain every last drop of whatever they want and only go when it suits them and in the unlikely event that you feel you need freedom fighters, remember they have a very,very large army.