Outside looking in: A letter from the diaspora

It was no surprise to hear the Chinese Vice President lauding Robert Mugabe as “a famed leader of the national liberation movement in Africa and an old friend whom the Chinese people know well.” That was followed by the announcement that China is to invest in Zimbabwe’s mining industry and wants to extend its farming interests in the country. Western countries may have turned their backs on the Mugabe regime but China has jumped into the vacuum and is ready to invest in Zimbabw

China has a population estimated at 1.3 billion, 20% of the world’s population. Zimbabwe has chosen to accept Chinese investment, knowing that China generally remains silent about human rights and is unlikely to criticise Zanu PF’s record in human rights. And that suits Zanu PF very well; just this week Zimbabwe received 20.000 AK 47s from China. With such a massive population to feed and clothe it is understandable that business interests dominate Chinese foreign policy. And now, Zimbabwean industries are about to receive yet another battering from cheap goods ‘Made in China.’

Tendai Biti was due to present his 2012 budget this week but that was postponed because Mugabe was out of the country so we are yet to hear a detailed account of how the Zimbabwean economy is prospering – or not. Apparently all government business comes to a halt during Mugabe’s absences which have been, for whatever reason, rather frequent this year.

Meanwhile the CFU reports that the country is less prepared than it has ever been for the new farming season. The strongly worded report warns that the country is faced with real hunger if the farming sector continues to be unproductive. The ‘new farmers’ may have increased in number but, without seed or fertiliser, they are unlikely to be productive. With record high temperatures and widespread water shortages, the danger of diseases such as cholera and typhoid is never far away. The absence of clean water and washing facilities for people in urban areas already living in unhygienic and overcrowded conditions means that without stringent precautions it is surely only a matter of time before there is a full scale epidemic. The combination of hunger and disease is a fatal mix.

Zanu PF have decided that their gathering in December is definitely a conference and not a congress. In this way, discussion of the leadership issue has been avoided. Rumours have been circulating that Zanu PF party members are uniting to get rid of Robert Mugabe. I find those rumours hard to believe; it would be a very brave man –or woman – who came out in the open to challenge Mugabe. It is much more likely that we will hear the usual songs of praise for the Dear Leader though it will be instructive to see how the Wiki-leakers are dealt with at the conference. The ‘leakers’ have been promised a ‘roasting’- whatever that means! What is very clear as the Army Chief of Staff and the Zanu PF Chairman Minister Khaya Moyo made plain this week is that anyone attempting to remove Zanu PF from power will be violently dealt with, though Zanu PF is against violence the Chairman emphasised. That threat was certainly intended for the MDC but any action against Mugabe himself whether from inside or outside Zanu PF would presumably provoke the same violent reaction.

As we head towards the year’s end, it seems that very little has changed in Zimbabwe. The GNU has clearly failed to bring about a peaceful transformation: Zanu PF remains as intolerant and intransigent as ever and the MDC continues to bear the brunt of violent attacks. While there is still no agreement about the date of the next election, no doubt the Chinese are ready to step in and help their ‘Old Friend’ steal yet another victory.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH. aka Pauline Henson.

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