Monday 12 February 2007
By Brian Ncube
BULAWAYO - Forty-five Zimbabwean soldiers sent to patrol the frontier with
South Africa two weeks ago deserted and skipped the border to seek a better
life in the country's more prosperous neighbour, sources told ZimOnline.
The deserters were part of a larger group of a group of 63 soldiers from the
army's 3 Brigade deployed on January 1 at Beitbridge town on the border with
South Africa. They were to patrol along the border that is notorious for
rampant smuggling and other criminal activity.
But they never lasted two days on duty, dumping their weapons in the thick
bush along the border and changing into civilian clothes before crossing the
crocodile-infested Limpopo River - separating the two countries - to enter
South Africa, said our sources, who are senior officers in the army.
"The deserters told their colleagues who remained behind that they were
going to South Africa because they could not continue in the army, working
for peanuts," said an officer, who is based at Imbizo Barracks near Zimbabwe's
second largest city of Bulawayo.
"They all left their guns and uniforms, which have all since been brought
back to barracks," added the army officer, whose name and rank we are
withholding because he was speaking without permission from his superiors.
According to the officer, senior commanders had ordered a total media
blackout on the issue, which they feared could possibly cause similar
desertions by junior soldiers who are unhappy over their poor salaries.
Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi refused to take questions on the matter.
"Leave me alone. I do not know what you are talking about," was all
Sekeramayi would say before switching off his mobile phone.
The sources said a taskforce comprising army and police investigators as
well as the spy Central Intelligence Organisation had been set up to track
down the deserters and was expected to go to South Africa to search for the
"We have also alerted our South African colleagues to be on guard and arrest
those deserters," said an officer in the police's paramilitary Support Unit
that is also involved in the hunt for deserters.
Hundreds of junior soldiers and police have resigned or deserted over the
past few years disgruntled by poor pay and working conditions. Many have
ended up in neighbouring countries especially in Botswana and South Africa
working as private security guards.
The lowest paid junior officer in the army and police earns about Z$75 000
per month, an amount that is way below the Z$460 000 that the Consumer
Council of Zimbabwe says a family of five needs per month to survive.
An estimated three million Zimbabweans or about a quarter of the country's
12 million people live in neighbouring countries and in Britain and America
and other Western nations after fleeing home because of worsening hunger and
Zimbabwe is in the grip of its worst ever economic crisis that has seen
inflation shooting beyond 1 000 percent and spawned severe shortages of
food, fuel, electricity, essential medicines, hard cash and just about every
basic survival commodity.
Political analysts rule out the possibility of well-paid top army generals
staging a coup against President Robert Mugabe. But they have always
speculated that worsening hunger could at some point force the underpaid
ordinary trooper to either openly revolt or to simply refuse to defend the
government should Zimbabweans rise up in a civil rebellion. - ZimOnline
Monday 12 February 2007
By Justin Muponda
HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party has been rocked by a
widening and potentially damaging rift over a controversial plan to extend
his rule by two more years but analysts said despite resistance by some of
his lieutenants, the veteran leader will eventually bulldoze the proposals
At its December conference, ZANU PF noted a motion seeking to combine
parliamentary and presidential elections, which critics say is a ploy to
extend Mugabe's term without going through an election, but referred the
issue back to its provinces for further consideration.
A meeting of ZANU PF's Communist-style Politburo a fortnight ago also agreed
to give provinces more time to debate the issue, raising speculation that
the motion to extend Mugabe's term was not supported by his inner circle
But analysts said this week while it was possible the move had drawn
resistance, especially from factions bidding to succeed him, Mugabe had
always prevailed in the past using his system of patronage that rewards
loyalists and punishes those opposed to his plans.
"It is possible Mugabe is not having his way . . . but it is premature for
any strategists either in the opposition or elsewhere to think along the
lines that there is a big division in ZANU PF," said Eldred Masunungure,
chairman of the University of Zimbabwe's political science department.
He added: "Even if it was true, (that Mugabe is losing support in his party)
Mugabe has a history of exaggerating external threats to ZANU PF so that
despite internal differences, the party closes ranks (behind him)."
Mugabe's controversial plan to stay in office will see him extend his
current term, which ends next year to 2010. This has already been met with
outrage by the opposition parties and civic groups, which have threatened to
launch street protests.
They say Mugabe has become a liability to the country and his continued stay
would only worsen an already debilitating economic crisis. Western diplomats
agree and quietly say they would work with ZANU PF without Mugabe, whom they
see as an obstacle to reforms.
Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst economic crisis that has seen inflation
spike to nearly 1 300 percent, the highest in the world, unemployment surge,
shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency and a mass exodus of qualified
Sources in ZANU PF say under the plan, Mugabe - who turns 83 next week -
would become a ceremonial head of state and seek a Prime Minister who is
elected by a Parliamentary majority.
There is speculation that his long-time personal banker and central bank
governor Gideon Gono could get the Prime Minister's post.
Gono seemed to have prevailed in his fight with former finance minister
Hebert Murerwa who was dropped from government in a reshuffle last week
following the pair's public spats last year over control of the country's
"To Mugabe this is a game, he loves seeing people speculate only for him to
come up with surprises. It is easy to say Mugabe has finally met his
Waterloo but I believe he will have his way at the end of the day," Lovemore
Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly said.
Analysts said it was unlikely that factions led by retired army general
Solomon Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa could sit down and forge a united
front against Mugabe, because of deep-seated suspicions.
The factions also lacked a post-Mugabe resolution, at least for now, with
each faction not wanting to compromise on who will lead the party, analysts
They noted that Mugabe enjoyed support among ZANU PF's grass-roots activists
and could sponsor a rebellion if his lieutenants tried to force him out. The
veteran leader had enough support for the plan to sail through the Central
Committee, the ruling party's highest decision-making body in between
If passed, as is expected, the Politburo would only be required to adopt the
resolution unless two thirds of its members reject it. The Politburo is
chosen by Mugabe and his two deputies from the Central Committee.
"So you can already see that it is actually more difficult for the motion to
fail to make it," Masunungure said. "ZANU PF is a more complex political
animal and a quarrel of this nature does not mean Mugabe has lost the plot.
In fact if there is a real challenge it would be in Parliament where he does
not have direct control of legislators, but then they can always be whipped
into line as has happened in the past," he said. - ZimOnline
11 Feb 2007 09:13:05 GMT
By MacDonald Dzirutwe
HARARE, Feb 11 (Reuters) - President Robert Mugabe faces new pressure from
Zimbabwe's worsening economic crisis, which is now deeply felt in his rural
strongholds and is testing the loyalty of security forces that have rallied
behind him, analysts said.
Political analysts say a gripping eight-year recession -- more than
opposition protests -- is the most potent threat to Mugabe's 27-year rule
and that current work boycotts by angry employees could ignite wider and
spontaneous street protests.
Zimbabweans last week woke up to increases of up to 200 percent in the price
of consumer goods, further worsening the plight of citizens grappling with
the world's highest inflation rate of 1,281 percent and a jobless rate above
The economic crisis has so far largely hit urban centres but analysts said
it was now being felt in rural areas where Mugabe's ruling party has
traditionally enjoyed loyal support.
Rural Zimbabweans -- who endured the country's 1970s bloody liberation
war -- and benefit from subsidised grain, agriculture inputs and state food
handouts, have consistently voted for ZANU-PF in past national elections.
"I have no doubt people in the rural areas are feeling more pain and
hardship. There is disenchantment there but I don't think to an extent where
we can begin to talk of Mugabe losing grip, but it gives him plenty to worry
about," said John Makumbe, a political commentator and critic of Mugabe.
Analysts said rural Zimbabweans were bombarded by ZANU-PF propaganda and had
no access to private media while some were "eternally thankful" for the land
given to them under Mugabe's programme of seizing land from white commercial
It is that land reform programme which the West says is partly to blame for
Zimbabwe's fiscal woes. Mugabe says Western sanctions have undermined his
"AWAKENING TO REALITY"
Amid the soaring prices, and shortages of foreign currency, fuel and food,
doctors and nurses have been joined by teachers and university lecturers
striking for higher pay.
Analysts say the loyalty of security forces was also now being severely
While senior officials in the army, police and the intelligence, most of
whom fought white rule alongside Mugabe, were unwavering in their support
for the veteran leader, analysts say junior officers were disenchanted.
The government quietly raised salaries for the forces last month but
analysts said with a junior army officer now getting a gross monthly pay of
Z$140,000 ($560) -- far below the Z$440,000 that a consumer watchdog said an
average family needed for food only -- more tense moments lay ahead for
The Zimbabwe dollar is officially pegged at 250 to one U.S unit but fetches
as much as 5,000 on the black market.
"The security forces have awakened to the reality of the economic crisis and
are beginning to question and try to locate the source of their misery,"
said Eldred Masunungure, a University of Zimbabwe political science
"The big question is whether they are crossing the bridge to a more
determined posture to show their displeasure," he said.
Mugabe has used state security forces to keep opponents at bay, appointing
senior military officers to strategic government posts like the state
railway firm, the national grain agency and to lead a programme to revive
The veteran leader has outflanked his opponents in the last seven years and
analysts said although the opposition was too divided and weak to pose a
serious challenge, the economic crisis was hitting his leadership as the
succession issue continued to tear at his ZANU-PF party.
Mugabe plans to extend his rule by two more years when his current term ends
in 2008. Some senior party officials are opposed to the plan, but he is seen
getting his way, thanks to an elaborate patronage system that ensures
"Certainly Mugabe is weaker at this stage, both from the economic crisis and
events in his party but I believe he has many cards up his sleeve and will
survive," Masunungure said.
From The Times (UK), 10 February
The dawn of the internet era brought with it great promises, the grandest of
which was that tyranny would soon be a thing of the past. With information
just a mouse-click away, the theory went, rulers could no longer control
what their people thought, nor keep them in pliable ignorance. Freed by the
anonymity of the chatroom, activists would use the web to find like-minded
folk, organise their opposition and bypass state control of radio,
television and newspapers. Thus would oppression wither and democracy
flourish. Fifteen years on, the promise is unfulfilled. "It's a real cliché
that the internet leads to more freedom," says Julien Pein, head of the
internet freedom desk at Reporters Without Borders, a human rights group.
"When governments put infinite money on the table, when they buy the
software, when they employ the staff, then it can be controlled like any
And that is what China has been doing. OpenNet Initiative, a group of
British and American universities including Harvard Law School and Cambridge
University, reported two years ago that China employed "numerous state
agencies and thousands of public and private personnel" in its battle to
limit access to the web. "China operates the most extensive, technologically
sophisticated and broad-reaching system of internet filtering in the world,"
the report continued. "The implications of this distorted online information
environment for China's users are profound, and disturbing." The Great
Firewall is a huge technological and ideological achievement. "Ten years
ago," Mr Pain says, "if we said that a state would be able to extend its own
borders onto the internet, people would have laughed." Now, he says, the
barriers are up and countries such as Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, North Korea and
Zimbabwe are looking on with envy. "The worst thing about China is that they
have a new model of internet and it is spreading around the world," he says.
"We know that they're exporting technology, but they also take a certain
mindset with them, and that's what's most alarming."
Early attempts to censor the internet were unsophisticated and easily
circumvented, but China has developed an effective system for blocking sites
that mention democracy, Falun Gong, Taiwanese independence and other
forbidden subjects. Using a combination of checkpoints at the gateway to its
national network and filtration by individual internet service providers, it
prevents many web pages from reaching the country's cyberspace. Others may
clear the first hurdle, only to be ignored by search engines, which fail to
index the offending sites or omit them from results. More sinister is the
country's effort to disrupt debate in blogs, chatrooms and e-mail messages.
Chinese internet service providers use mail scanning software to intercept
messages containing blacklisted words, and attempts to post blog entries
containing these words will result in the writer's web browser throwing up a
warning and then closing down. It is possible to circumvent these controls
with enough effort and technical knowledge, but most people have neither.
For those who try, the risk is substantial: according to Reporters Without
Borders, China has imprisoned 50 people for what they have posted on the
It is tempting to force all this into a Cold War template. In the West we
have a democratic web, dedicated to political freedom, commercialism and
barely restrained anarchy. Opposed to this is a heavily censored and
centralised model of web access which is spilling out into Cuba, southeast
Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa. There are, however, signs that
the West is getting cold feet about its laissez-faire approach. Concerns
about cyber crime, paedophilia, pornography, violence and terrorism are
growing, and even though in most cases the internet merely offers a newer
and more fashionable outlet for age-old crimes and vices, the clamour for
more invasive regulation may be difficult to resist. In fact, resistance may
be the least attractive option. Allowing unchecked web traffic runs counter
to the deep-seated desire for control felt by many governments, and not just
unelected ones. Last year, the US Government outlawed online gambling and
the EU indicated a desire to regulate YouTube and other video-based websites
as if they were broadcast television.
Such measures may seem relatively trivial compared with China's
interventions, but they indicate a willingness to extend national boundaries
onto the web. Western democracies may not like what China is doing in
practice, but they seem to like the principle of nationally regulated
cyberspace. When multinational companies such as Google and Yahoo! set up
shop in China and agree to abide by the local rules, they're keen to play up
the optimism of the dot-com days, when the web was going to liberate the
world. Censored information is better than no information at all, they say,
and once people realise that they've missing something, they will become
more curious and begin to ask questions. It's a good argument and it may
eventually prove true, but in the meantime it looks as if we're learning
rather more from the Chinese than they're learning from us.
Harare - Zimbabwe's 180 000 civil servants want President Robert Mugabe's
government to award them a 400% pay increase to cushion them from a
worsening economic crisis, state media said on Sunday.
The Apex Council, which represents civil servants, expects to conclude wage
talks with the authorities by Friday, the state- controlled Sunday Mail
"Members are agitated. If we don't come to an agreement, members will decide
on the course of action to take," council official Tendai Chikowore said.
As Zimbabwe's economy sinks deeper into crisis, a wave of discontent is
sweeping through the public sector.
A strike by doctors and nurses has crippled major hospitals in Harare and
the second largest city of Bulawayo, adding to the woes of the country's
beleaguered minimum-wage earners.
Members of a 17 000-strong radical teachers' union also went on strike last
The civil servants, many of whom are teachers, want the authorities to award
a minimum wage of Zim$500 000 (US$2 000), up from the current lowest salary
of Zim$30 000, the Sunday Mail said.
"Our immediate concern now is to improve salaries and transport and housing
allowances of the least paid worker in government to levels above the
poverty datum line," Chikowore told the paper.
The council wants the pay rises backdated to January.
The latest wage demands come as Zimbabwe is battling the world's highest
inflation rate of more than 1 280%, and daily price increases.
The cost of living for an average family of six shot up to more than Zim$450
000 (US$1 800) in January, up from around Zim$245 000 in December, according
to the latest figures from the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe.
Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono has proposed a wage and price freeze to
come into effect next month.
Prices of most goods and services are rising rapidly in tandem with foreign
currency exchange rates on a flourishing parallel market.
The Zimbabwe dollar, which is officially pegged at 250 to the US dollar,
fetches up to 5 000 to the US dollar on the parallel market. - Sapa-dpa
Sun Feb 11, 2007 5:47AM EST
By Charles Mangwiro
CHUPANGA, Mozambique, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Mozambique's military and relief
agencies have evacuated more than 20,000 people from their homes in flood
areas along the Zambezi river in central Mozambique, relief agency INGC said
Some 500,000 people in the impoverished southern African country, mainly in
the provinces of Zambezia and Sofala, are at risk from flooding that has
killed 29 people and damaged thousands of homes and schools. More rains are
Relief Agency INGC Sofala director Joao Ribeiro said 24,000 people had been
taken to transit and accommodation centres as rains in neighbouring
Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi poured into the overflowing Cahora Bassa Dam.
"The situation is serious but manageable. We are removing people from all
risky areas and if it continues raining in the next few days, we can say it
could go beyond our control."
Joao Jonasse, administrator of the Chupanga region about 1,400 (875 miles)
north of the capital Maputo, said the worst was still to come.
"So many houses in Luabo are under water. We are expecting huge numbers in
the next days because more waters are being discharged from HCB (Cahora
Bassa)," he said.
Prime Minister Luisa Diogo said on Friday the government may have to call
for international help to rescue people threatened by rising water, adding
the situation could turn out to be worse than the devastating floods of 2000
Flooding in Mozambique in late 2000 and early 2001 killed over 700 people
and displaced half a million others.
A special newcomer to the Vigil was Zizi, seven week old baby son of Vigil
co-ordinator Dumi and his wife Gugu. Another cause for celebration was their
recent marriage. Everyone made a great fuss of the young one and he didn't
cry once. Zizi's first visit to the Vigil brought an improvement in the
weather. London had snow on Thursday but it had all melted by today and the
temperature was really quite mild.
First at the Vigil was Juliet from Manchester. She left home at 7 am for her
long journey. She told us her asylum claim had been turned down. We are
supporting an appeal. Her lawyer, Ana, who is based in London, also came
to the Vigil kindly bearing cakes for our supporters. She said Juliet
received unkind treatment from the judge who questioned her motive in coming
to the Vigil. Well, you can't win. To our minds Juliet has been a faithful
supporter and a genuine human rights activist, as well as a lovely person.
It was disturbing to hear from Juliet that her 73 year old sister in
Matabeleland is eating only once in two days. Her sister told her "If I get
food today I won't eat tomorrow, I will save it for the day after".
Francesca, our English schoolgirl supporter, was also in touch with Zimbabwe
this week. She was surprised when a friend in Zimbabwe mentioned the Vigil
and asked him how he knew about it. His reply was "everyone knows about the
The Vigil has a busy time ahead. Next Saturday WOZA Solidarity UK is
joining us and we are launching WOZA's people's charter in the UK. WOZA
(Women of Zimbabwe Arise) consulted thousands of people in Zimbabwe at
almost 300 meetings to find out what they want in a new Zimbabwe: the result
is the people's charter. WOZA is now asking Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to
sign up to this charter. The following Saturday, we have another launch.
Viomak, the Zimbabwean protest singer, is releasing her second album "Happy
83rd Birthday President R G Mugabe (bones of a 30 year old)". She will be
singing a song from the album "Mangwanani Baba". Viomak has invited the
Zimbabwean Ambassador, Mr Gabriel Machinga, to come to the Vigil to accept
her birthday present to Mugabe. Watch this space! Vigil co-ordinator,
Rose, said it was gratifying that the Vigil was being used as a launch
vehicle for so many Zimbabwean initiatives. She went on to say we have been
asked to support a Trafalgar Square rally organised by ACTSA (previously the
anti-Apartheid Movement) on Saturday, 10th March. The rally ties in with
International Women's Day and is focusing on Zimbabwean women. It promises
to be a big deal and the Vigil asks all its supporters to encourage everyone
to come and make this a big day for Zimbabwe - a day of anguish from the
Thanks to Chipo and Luka for all their help in keeping the Vigil running:
Chipo for looking after the selling of our t-shirts and sweatshirts and to
Luka for distributing information.
For this week's Vigil pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/
FOR THE RECORD: 65 signed the register.
FOR YOUR DIARY:
- Monday, 12th February, 7.30 pm. Central London Zimbabwe Forum. The
speakers are Washington Katema, National Coordinator of Zimbabwe National
Students Union and McDonald Lewanika, the Coordinator of Students Solidarity
Trust. Upstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street, London
WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to
John Adam Street, turn right and you will see the pub.
- Wednesday, 14th February at 6 pm - an audio-visual presentation of
WOZA in action in Bulawayo + speakers. Venue: Room G50, SOAS (School of
Oriental and African Studies) Main Building, Thornhaugh Street, Russell
Square, London WC1H 0XG. Nearest tube: Russell Square.
- Saturday, 17th February - special Vigil with WOZA Solidarity UK to
launch WOZA's People's Charter.
- Saturday, 24th February - Special Vigil to mark the release of
Viomak's Album "Happy 83rd Birthday President R G Mugabe (bones of a 30 year
- Saturday, 10th March, 1-4 pm - ACTSA rally for Zimbabwe in
Trafalgar Square. The Vigil will be manned by a skeleton crew during the
two hours the rally overlaps with the Vigil. Mass toy-toy to the Vigil
planned at the end of the rally.
The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe. http://www.zimvigil.co.uk
11/02/2007 15:38 - (SA)
Harare - Doctors have been on strike for weeks, teachers are boycotting
classes and now civil servants are threatening to stay away from their
offices in another sign of the general collapse of the Zimbabwean state.
President Robert Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, has found his
position largely unchallenged in recent times given splits in opposition
But analysts believe the recent wave of industrial unrest, with workers
desperate for pay hikes to keep up pace with the skyrocketing cost of
living, could soon boil over and culminate in spontaneous anti-government
Mugabe may have dismissed his trade unionist opponents as being "deranged"
but Raymond Majongwe, the labour leader who instigated this week's strike
action by thousands of teachers, is not backing off.
"They can arrest us but we will not move an inch from our demands. It's us
who call the shots," said Majongwe, of the Progressive Teachers' Union.
The union wants teachers' monthly salaries raised from the current average
of Zim$100 000 (US$400 at the official rate but less than US$25 on the black
market) to Zim$540 000, describing its demands the "bare minimum considering
the current cost of living".
Civil servants rise up
Hospitals have largely ceased to operate since senior doctors joined
long-striking junior medics in staying away at the beginning of January.
They had also asked for a tenfold increase in salaries to keep up with the
surging cost of living which is being fuelled by inflation which now stands
at 1 281% - the highest in the world.
Emergency cases are being handled by army medics and a few senior doctors
who have decided to keep turning up at their workplace.
Similar protests can be heard from the civil servants' Public Service
Association union which has hinted at a strike by calling on members "to
plan the way forward in the event that we do not get the relief we are
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, long a thorn in the flesh of Mugabe,
has given the government until February 23 to reduce income tax, increase
access to anti-Aids drugs and pay salaries above the poverty threshold.
Mugabe's 'invisible opposition'
University of Zimbabwe political science professor Eldred Masunungure said
the economy was becoming "the invisible opposition" to Mugabe's rule.
"It's driving the current spate of strikes in the absence of real political
opposition," Masunungure said.
"Although there is no coherence in the protests they could degenerate to
Economic analyst Elizabeth Marunda warned of spontaneous rioting similar to
food riots in the 1990s led by the then ZCTU and current opposition chief
"Revolutions have come about as a result of discontent and we have a lot of
discontent in the country today," Marunda said.
"The problem is whenever people express their anger through protests they
are brutally crushed. There will be danger when the people's anger meets eye
to eye with the state machinery."
In a sign of his unease, Mugabe on Wednesday sacked finance minister Herbert
Murerwa for failing to get a grip on inflation.
During the swearing-in ceremony for his successor Samuel Mumbengegwi, Mugabe
said he would "never allow" street protests to take place and called his
union critics the "deranged ones".
Once a regional model, Zimbabwe's economy has been on the slide for nearly
eight years. Previously unheard of food shortages are now widespread with at
least 80% of the population living below the poverty line.
Published on 10/02/07 at 20:38:40 CET by chinaworker.org
"Chinese people are most strongly opposed to colonialism and oppression of
all types," declared Hu Jintao, China's president, in his address to more
than 1,000 students and staff at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
Vincent Kolo, chinaworker.info
Hu's just completed eight-nation tour of Africa, his third since coming to
power in 2003, had the aim of consolidating China's growing stake in Africa's
oil and energy resources, and to shore up relations with local rulers who
are weathering a growing anti-China backlash. The problem is particularly
acute in South Africa and Zambia, the two countries that received most
attention from the Chinese president. Unveiling a package of new trade and
investment deals, Hu assured his South African audience, "China will
certainly not do anything to hurt the freedom of Africa and its people."
Similarly, he told Zambians that Beijing was interested in "partnership
rather than purely profit."
But such claims are wearing thin in Africa. "Among ordinary people, a very
strong resentment, bordering on racism, is emerging against the Chinese,"
says Henning Melber, from a Swedish think-tank based in Namibia. "It's
because the Chinese are seen as backing the [African] governments in
oppressing their own people."
China's 'communist' rulers are under fire on a range of issues including
slave labour conditions at Chinese-run factories, mounting trade imbalances,
environmental degradation and their support for repressive, dictatorial
regimes - although of course these same charges could be made against the US
and other foreign capitalist powers. The point is that Chinese spokesmen
claim they are different, and deny they are out to exploit Africa for
Cooperation or exploitation?
China's 'great leap' into Africa is having a profound effect on the world's
poorest continent. As a rising superpower China is involved in a scramble -
in competition with the US and Europe - to harness Africa's vast mineral
wealth for its hungry industries. For the Chinese regime and the
increasingly powerful capitalist class that shelters under its protection,
this determines its policies towards Africa, rather than heady notions of 'international
solidarity' or 'south-south cooperation'.
This was not the case in the 1960s and 70s, the first period of significant
Chinese engagement with Africa. Then too, China supported numerous
infrastructure projects in poor, newly independent states, for example
building the 1,860 kilometre-long Tanzania-Zambia Railway. China also
provided funds and training for guerrilla organisations fighting colonialism
and sent thousands of doctors to African countries. But Mao Zedong's
Stalinist regime - which rested not on capitalist ownership but a
bureaucratically run nationalised economy - practised economic 'autarchy'
(self-sufficiency), so China's economic ties with Africa were negligible.
Rather than economics, Mao's policies towards Africa were motivated by the
prestige of his regime on the wider global stage, and in particular the need
to check the influence of rival Russian Stalinism, whose position was
supported by anti-Mao factions even within China's ruling bureaucracy. The
shift to capitalism in China from the 1980s onwards has completely changed
both the domestic and foreign policy aims of the ruling Communist Party.
Hu's 12-day troubleshooting mission took in Cameroon, Namibia, Mozambique,
the Seychelles, Sudan, South Africa, Zambia and Liberia, where he sought to
insure that rising anti-China tensions do not jeopardise vital economic
interests. Official statements from both the Chinese and African governments
stress the benefits of their ever-deepening relationship. The Chinese regime
boasts it has financed 900 infrastructure projects in Africa and cancelled
$10 billion of the debt it is owed by African states. Chinese construction
firms are building dams, telecoms networks, railways, hotels, airports, oil
pipelines and other major infrastructure projects. But contrary to claims
that Beijing represents a 'new alternative direction' for Africa, an escape
from the neo-liberal prescriptions of the World Bank and other imperialist
agencies, its policies reflect the fundamental interests of China's
capitalist production system.
Today's infrastructure projects financed by China's state-run banks are
either designed to transport valuable fuel or metals more cheaply and
efficiently for export to China, or they take the form of 'bribes' to secure
government contracts. In Nigeria, as The Economist (28 October 2006)
reports, "China's promises to invest about $4 billion in refineries, power
plants and agriculture were a condition for getting oil rights".
Against this background, more and more African workers, students and poor
farmers are questioning the benefits of closer links with China. In
particular the role of Chinese companies, mostly state-owned, has aroused
widespread opposition. Across Africa, notes Inter Press Service, these
companies are seen as the "main culprits in the use of casual labour, which
involves lower pay and no social security benefits."
In Zambia the Chinese president's visit was severely curtailed due to the
threat of protests. The University of Zambia, a stronghold of the country's
political opposition, was surrounded by hundreds of armed police to prevent
anti-Hu demonstrations. A planned tour of a Chinese-owned copper mine in
northern Zambia was cancelled for the same reason. This was the site of a
blast in 2005 that killed 50 Zambian workers, who were locked inside the
plant by the Chinese bosses.
"The Chinese, they don't even consider us to be human beings," Albert
Mwanaumo, a former copper miner told the Wall Street Journal's
correspondent. "They think they have the right to rule us," said Mwanaumo
who was one of dozens of miners fired on by Chinese security guards during a
protest last year in which six workers were killed. Hu's reception in Zambia
was certainly not helped by the decision a month earlier by the Chinese
owners to close the country's largest textile mill, Mulungushi Textiles.
China's problems in Zambia are not unique. South Africa's president, Thabo
Mbeki, echoed popular concerns when he warned in December of the danger of a
new "colonial relationship" developing. In Namibia, Hu lectured managers of
Chinese companies on the need for "social responsibility" and "harmony with
local residents", according to reports on China's state television.
Trade and diplomacy
China's economic presence in Africa has mushroomed since the start of the
century, in one of the most dramatic examples of capitalist 'globalisation'
yet seen. Two-way trade has risen fivefold in the last six years to $55.5
billion last year, and China has overtaken Britain to become Africa's third
largest trading partner after the United States and France. In order to feed
an industrial expansion currently topping 16 percent per year, China has
scoured the continent signing deals for oil in places like Sudan, Angola and
Nigeria, iron ore and platinum in South Africa, bauxite in Equatorial
Guinea, uranium in Namibia, copper and cobalt in Congo and Zambia, timber in
Cameroon, Gabon and Liberia, and cotton in Burkina Faso. Because Chinese
companies are mostly state-run, a form of what Lenin called 'state
capitalism'; they don't compete against each other for African contracts,
only against non-Chinese companies. This, and the financial backing of China's
largely state-owned banks, strengthens their hands in clinching contracts
and government approval.
While primarily focused on oil and minerals - Africa now accounts for one
third of China's oil imports - Chinese companies are increasingly
diversifying into apparel, food processing, telecommunications and
construction. The number of Chinese firms operating on the continent has
risen ten-fold since 2003, according to the International Herald Tribune.
This has also brought an influx of Chinese workers, contractors and small
traders, now numbering hundreds of thousands. Chinese companies control 70%
of Zimbabwe's electrical power, while in South Africa - the continent's most
important consumer market - more than 700 Chinese companies operate in
manufacturing, shipping, automobiles, telecommunications and consumer
To protect its growing economic stake China is also beefing up its
diplomatic presence, with Chinese troops assigned to UN 'peacekeeping'
operations in Congo and Liberia since 2003. In the United Nations, China has
supported the three African candidates - South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria -
for a permanent seat on the Security Council. Last November it hosted a
lavish Forum on China-African Cooperation in Beijing, with leaders from
48-African nations. At this meeting, the Chinese regime announced it would
double its aid to the continent by the year 2009, train 15,000 Africans
technicians, and build a conference centre for the African Union. For the
most part, African elites have welcomed Chinese involvement, seeing this
both as an opportunity to enrich themselves and to offset pressure from the
Western imperialist powers and their debt agencies, the IMF and World Bank,
the latter headed by the notorious neo-conservative, Paul Wolfowitz.
Rising commodity prices
It is true that surging demand from China, India and other Asian economies,
by pushing up world market prices for raw materials has - temporarily -
reversed a historical trend of falling prices over half a century.
Inevitably, however, today's sizzling market for raw materials, which is
mainly a result of the capitalists' criminal lack of investment in these
sectors in the 1980s and 90s, is heading for a series of 'corrections' (this
has already begun), bringing them down to more 'normal' levels. But as the
World Bank's chief economist, François Bourguignon, points out, higher
export earnings has contributed to economic growth per capita in Africa
exceeding the global average for the last five years, something
unprecedented since most African states gained their independence in the
Under capitalism, however, faster headline economic growth does not
necessarily translate into real gains for the majority of the population.
The people of China can vouch for that. On the contrary, especially under
the prevailing neo-liberal phase of capitalism with its stress on a
downsized public sector, maximum deregulation and minimum welfare
protection, a small layer of millionaires skims of most of the gains. In
Africa's case, mostly foreign-owned mining and energy corporations have been
the big winners from higher raw material prices.
China's scramble for Africa's mineral wealth has of course become a source
of growing tension with US and European capitalism. The rise in world energy
and mineral prices has, partially, restored some of the bargaining power
that African regimes enjoyed during the so-called Cold War when they could
play off US imperialism on one side against Stalinist Russia on the other,
in order to win economic or political concessions. This room for manoeuvre
was effectively closed by the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the early
1990s, leaving the countries of the neo-colonial world completely at the
mercy of the US capitalists and their global agencies. But today, far from
enabling these states to win greater economic independence, the Chinese
regime is locking them into a new form of dependence - on China!
A new debt crisis?
The impression is given that China offers hassle-free funding, 'with no
strings' as opposed to the long list of 'conditionalities' attached to loans
from the IMF or World Bank. It is true that by comparison to these
institutions, China's state-sanctioned loans come with a low rate of
interest and a long payback period. This is the case now, but the situation
can change quickly when, in reality, China's banks are in the same parlous
condition as banks in Ukraine and Pakistan, according to the rating agency
Beijing's foreign policies, including its attitude to foreign loans, are
dictated by the same fundamental considerations as Western capitalist
governments - to secure resources, markets and cheap labour. Chinese loans
to African governments are invariably tied to strategic stakes in the
mineral, energy or agricultural sector, such as a $4 billion oil-backed loan
granted to Angola in 2004 by China's Eximbank. In return China receives
10,000 barrels of oil a day, and Chinese companies get the lion's share - 70
percent - of the Angolan government's construction contracts.
When prices of raw materials head downwards, Chinese banks like other
creditors will demand a bigger share of Africa's resources as payment for
their loans. Indeed as many commentators are now warning, China's lending
spree is sowing the seeds of a new debt crisis.
As for 'no conditionality', this is simply not true: China merely has
different political priorities to the US and other outside powers. In
October 2005, Beijing announced a debt cancellation package for Senegal
worth $18.5 million after its government ended diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
The Beijing regime's campaign to isolate Taiwan, which it regards as its own
territory, is an area where it is involved in fierce strategic competition
with the US and even Japan. At the time of Zambia's presidential elections
in September 2006, China threatened to pull out of the country altogether if
the main opposition candidate - a fierce critic of China - was victorious.
In Angola, according to Le Monde Diplomatique, Chinese funds financed the
ruling party's election campaign last year. There are also allegations that
pressure from China forced the resignation of the secretary of the Angolan
council of ministers in December 2004. Clearly, the claim that China does
not indulge in 'political interference' is bogus.
It is the brutal logic of global capitalism that the countries of the
neo-colonial world are condemned to poverty and backwardness. Their
economies are almost totally dependent on one or two export commodities.
Cotton, for example, accounts for almost everything Burkina Faso exports and
China is its biggest market. In Zambia's case, 71.3 percent of total export
earnings come from copper. Angola's oil accounts for 92 percent of total
In the absence of a viable industrial base these economies are forced to
import higher value manufactures and technology products from the
industrialised capitalist countries on terms that favour the latter and
perpetuate this economic - and therefore also political - dependency. Far
from breaking this cycle, China's push into Africa actually reinforces it,
while also steering the process to fit China's interests. South Africa's
Mbeki acknowledged the truth of this in his speech about a new "colonial
The example of the cotton industry - which provides jobs for 20 million
Africans - illustrates how China, alongside US and European imperialism, is
perpetuating Africa's economic enslavement. China is now the largest market
for African cotton, which is then turned into clothing in China's gigantic,
low-wage, low-price textile sector and sent back to overwhelm Africa's local
manufacturers. Textile factories in South Africa, Mauritius and Nigeria have
closed, while as The Economist notes, "In tiny Lesotho, where making clothes
for Europe or America is the only industry around, this has been
Trade unions in South Africa have protested that Chinese imports have cost
around 100,000 jobs in the domestic textile industry, which resulted in
Mbeki's government and Beijing agreeing to a 'cap' on imports of Chinese
made garments for two-years. This concession must be viewed in the context
of South Africa's ballooning trade deficit with China and the fact that
South Africa is the biggest market for Chinese goods in Africa, accounting
for a one-fifth of its total exports to the continent. China's relationship
with the South Africa is a complex one, going beyond trade and investment
links. The Chinese regime want to develop a 'joint venture' with the South
African capitalists - the dominant regional force - in order to exploit more
effectively other resource-rich states in the vicinity such a Namibia,
Mozambique and Angola.
Just as the explosive growth of the capitalist market has created a
monumental environmental crisis in China itself, Chinese companies are
exporting the same destructive practises to Africa. In Liberia - another
stop on Hu's tour - the destruction of forests through illegal logging by
Chinese companies clearly contradicts Hu's sermons about "brotherly
relations". Ninety percent of Liberia's timber exports are illegal, with
similar figures in the Democratic Republic of Congo (90%), Cameroon (50%)
and Equatorial Guinea (90%). Chinese timber companies, who are making huge
profits from the mainland's frenzied construction boom, are "the main hub of
a global network of trade of illegal timber." [mongabay.com, 20 April 2005]
Chinese construction firms are also building large dams - financed by
Chinese loans - in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Angola and
Ghana. Such projects involve large-scale relocation of people, usually by
force, and pose a major threat to local eco-systems. Chinese companies and
bureaucrats have wreaked havoc upon China's own river systems through
excessive construction of dams and seem set on repeating this experience in
Africa (see 'China commits ecological suicide', chinaworker.info, August
Anti-China feeling is perhaps most pronounced in Zambia, where China is now
the third-biggest investor after South Africa and Britain. This explains the
$800 million worth of investment and debt waivers the Chinese president took
with him to Luanda. The shooting to death of six copper miners in 2006 after
they demanded improved working conditions, and a spate of other incidents
involving Chinese-owned companies, made China a key political issue in last
September's presidential elections.
"Zambia is becoming a province - no, a district - of China," claimed,
Michael Sata, the candidate for the main opposition Zambia Patriotic Front.
"We've removed one foreign power and we don't want another foreign power
here, especially one that is not a democracy," he said.
Sata, who amongst other things called for the recognition of Taiwan and
expulsion of Chinese traders from Zambia, came second with 29 percent of the
popular vote. He represents a capitalist party, supported by white
landowners, but also supported by the Federation of Free Trade Unions
(FFTUZ). While Sata's attacks on China for "dumping human beings" are
nothing other than racist, his significant support among Zambia's workers
and poor show that his denunciations of Chinese bosses struck a chord: "They
ill treat our people and that is unacceptable. We are not going to condone
As elsewhere, Chinese companies are renowned for banning trade unions,
ignoring basic safety standards, and giving specialised treatment to their
Chinese employees, mostly skilled workers and managers. In conditions of
generalised poverty and mass unemployment - in Zambia 50 percent of the
workforce is unemployed and 86 percent live below the poverty line - these
practises have ignited not only justifiable class indignation but also even
racism against Chinese workers and traders. This is a big danger for the
working class in Africa, threatening to undermine the struggle for better
conditions and divert attention from the root of the problem, which is
capitalism - in all its national varieties. Some sections of Africa's local
ruling classes, as in Zambia, are seizing on anti-China feeling to divert
attention from their own failings.
The fact remains that Chinese bosses treat workers in China in exactly the
same way as in Africa, particularly the 100 million migrant workers who
slave under appalling conditions in China's sweatshop assembly plants, where
horrific accidents are a daily occurrence. Here too, Chinese state companies
operate a two-tier structure with a minority of skilled workers and
technicians enjoying permanent contracts, pension rights, higher wages and
other benefits, while a much larger layer of workers are forced to accept
short-term contracts on much lower pay. And in China too, foreign
capitalists are allowed to ignore or circumvent labour laws, minimum wage
rulings and environmental regulations in much the same way Chinese companies
do in Africa.
Working class internationalism
In other words, workers in Africa need to forge links with Chinese workers
to struggle together against capitalist exploitation. A crucial issue is the
self-organisation of workers in genuinely democratic, independent and
fighting trade unions. The lack of free trade unions in China is a key
factor allowing Chinese bosses to export their dictatorial methods abroad.
African trade unions should actively support the struggle of the Chinese
working class, numbering some 400 millions, against this oppression.
The call raised by some sections of the trade union movement for import
controls and even trade 'boycotts', if this does not also demand the end of
capitalist ownership and control of industry, is at best ineffective and at
worst reactionary. Socialists are in favour of democratically planned trade,
rather than the neo-liberal mantra of 'free trade', which in reality always
favours the most powerful capitalist economies. But this question is
indissolubly linked to the need to nationalise industry under democratic
workers' control and draw up a socialist plan of production as part of a
wider, global plan. Potentially, the closer economic integration of China
and Africa could deliver huge gains for both peoples. But this requires an
international struggle for democratic socialism to end the nightmare of
imperialist domination, dictatorial capitalism and poverty.
Mail & Guardian
Mail & Guardian reporter
10 February 2007 11:59
Birth, death, love and taxes are said to be the only constants
in life, but one more thing could be added: a Robert Mugabe Cabinet.
One would like to think that Stan Made -- a man who has presided
over the near-death of Zimbabwe's agriculture sector since the start of the
land invasions -- would be relieved of his duties and packed off to a place
where he has nothing at all to do with anything.
Long seen as the comical, if not farcical, face of the failed
land reform programme, Made infamously said that the drought in Zimbabwe was
caused by a monkey who had created a malfunction in a transmitter at a
He also gave new meaning to the term "crop forecasts",
conducting one from a helicopter. Made has been moved, but to another
agriculture-related post. This one was specially created for him: minister
of state for agricultural engineering and mechanisation.
At least there won't be any bungling in this new job, as there
is no state agriculture really going on and most irrigation equipment and
other machinery has been looted and sold, largely as scrap metal.
Sadly, Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa has been axed. He was
one of the few ministers who really knew what he was doing -- and one of the
few acceptable to people outside ruling Zanu-PF circles.
It is not really a surprise, as the writing has been on the wall
for him since he clashed with Reserve Bank Governor and Mugabe confidante
It was reported last month that he wanted to resign because he
was unable to work with Gono, and Mugabe disliked what he called his
"textbook-economics" approach to his work.
Murerwa is to be replaced by Simbarashe Mumbembegwi, the former
minister for indigenisation and empowerment, and a former ambassador to the
Perhaps he has been moved because his portfolio at the
indigenisation and empowerment ministry is almost complete -- what with the
number of white commercial farmers in the country dropping from 4 500 in
2000 to just 600 these days.
Those ministers lucky just to have been reshuffled, rather than
dropped, may not be sure what exactly it is they are supposed to be doing.
What, for instance, is economist Samuel Undenge, the new
Minister of State for State Enterprises, Anti-Monopolies and
Anti-Corruption, really supposed to be doing?
He is not the only who may be wondering about his job
description, as Zimbabwe now has four ministries that in one way or another
have to do with agriculture: Made's ministry, the land affairs ministry
headed by Didymus Mutasa, a ministry of agriculture headed by Rugare Gumbo
and Munacho Mutezo's ministry of water resources and infrastructural
It is not only agriculture that sees this duplication of duties.
There are also three ministries that have to do with the economy: the
economic development ministry headed by Sylvester Nguni, the finance
ministry and Obert Mpofu's ministry of industry and international trade.
Sun Feb 11, 2007 3:00 PM GMT
DHAKA (Reuters) - Zimbabwe captain Prosper Utseya has been fined 40 percent
of his match fee because his team bowled their overs too slowly in the
fourth one-day international against Bangladesh.
An International Cricket Council statement on Sunday said the other Zimbabwe
players had been fined 20 percent of their match fees for the same offence.
"It was found to have been four overs short of where it should have been,"
the statement said.
Bangladesh beat Zimbabwe by one wicket on Saturday to win the series 3-1.