via First, Address The Chinese Issue Minister Chinamasa | ZimEye By Chris Tongogara September 25, 2013
With your recent calls to clamp down on foreign imports as a way to revamp the Zimbabwean economy, I keep wondering why the government at large has no plans on handling the infiltrating Chinese that could soon be as hard as the Lake Chivero hyacinth. While I am not a proponent of xenophobia, I am uncomfortable in killing my only lamb for a guest with a thousand sheep. The intellectually innocent or gullible ones in cabinet have in the past deemed the Chinese, “our good friends” and yet when the crisis hits crunch, the Chinese have been nowhere to be found in being genuine business partners in the Zimbabwean economic woes. For every dollar they have traded with the Chinese, the Chinese have walked away richer and left the Zimbabwean economy fledgling. They are here to benefit more than they want to help us. Please bear that in mind.
Two days ago even the Construction business was making a public outcry that the Chinese are getting more tenders to construct at the expense of local construction companies, engineering firms and architects. And this is the very Zimbabwe whose government sings “Zimbabwe shall never be a colony again.”
The clothing markets are now replete with cheap “zhing zhong” clothes supplied through disingenuous Chinese retailers who deliberately are milking local consumers. Such cheap clothes and shoes (that only can be used for a particular distance before getting worn out) are meant just for Africa and other gullible Third World destinations. In Europe and America, the Chinese give these countries a good deal. They manufacture quality clothes with great labels. For Africa, they just manufacture cheap clothes that they literally shove down the African’s throat as they dump such on a gullible population. They they turn around and ask for government protection when the consumers cry foul.
If Chinamasa is to be serious with control of imports, the threshold is to deal with the marauding Chinese businesses. Everywhere you look right now in Harare, the Chinese are taking over. Ironically, as the entire cabinet is screaming and groaning about so called “illegal sanctions”, rich China cannot offer much to alleviate the crisis. China has money and resources. If she were a genuine partner, Zimbabwe could have stopped whining a decade ago about the so called illegal sanctions. As Zimbabwe tried to look East , the Chinese are penny-pinchers. They only do something in exchange for a double price. The military college they put up in Mazowe and the other mall and any other structures emerging in Zimbabwe will mean a costly venture for Zimbabwe in the long run. The Chinese are witty and cunning and are not that easy to control or to ask to leave. And they are not willing to trade with Zimbabwe as equal partners on the table. Instead we have seen our own people being exploited or not hired as the Chinese have shipped into Zimbabwe, their own laborers from home to do non-technical work. The labour practices too have been appaling and yet the government has remained mum.
A clamp down on foreign imports should also be seriously considered in light of what the international markets are offering. You cannot expect locals to be preferring cheap, out of style sixties clothes when global markets have clothes with names and labels meeting the current expectations of any progressive mind. A good example is to track how many cabinet Ministers would prefer buying their suits for business from local stores. Talk is cheap. Your prescriptions are valid and patriotic but the problem is that there are many factors that you are overlooking Comrade Minister. You want others to turn left as you are turning right. Even the first family shops in Asia and Europe and have no time for local products. So please in this competitive edge, give the people the reason to prefer local products instead of simply grabbing them by the collar to buy locally.
The quality should be convincing. Local manufacturers are designing products for convenience, cutting costs and short changing the consumer. The packaging is horrible. No one is enticed to buy such. That’s why the Beitbridge border post is always a hive of activity. The products from South Africa have better taste, better packaging and appealing outlook. Once one has tasted those foreign goods, it has been hard to trust local products.
As an example, a year ago my friend discovered a used condom in a fresh beer bottle. Many other untold stories have happened in opaque plastic containers like the brown scud. As you close your eyes to drink, you can just expect anything to come into your mouth. Such quality control issues have always affected the local product because it has been unsettling to discover foreign objects in compromised quality standards.
To conclude, local retailers must focus on quality products and better packaging. The Chinese should not re-colonize us as they kill the job seeker expectations when things are this hard. They should share the markets and skills but should operate within a limited time frame to give way to local talent as they must leave in a timely manner. By denying re-colonization, please keep in mind that anyone sucking our wealth by back or front door is a colonialist. Remember colonialism can be an invited feature premised on cordial relations or can be an aftermath of confrontation or resistance. Today’s colonialism is a product of bribery and corruption followed by innocuous treaties. The cabinet should simply have the urge and finesse to resist bribes and pave way for locals to cope with global standards and serve the consumer well. Thank you.