Analysts, citizens slam Look East policy

Zanu (PF) launched the Look East Policy in 2003 as a way of curtailing the effects of targeted measures imposed on President Robert Mugabe and his inner cabal in 2002 at the height of their human rights violations.

Trycoat Garikayi
Trycoat Garikayi

Although the party has insisted that the policy would compensate for the withdrawal of Western investment, analysts have expressed serious reservations about the conduct of Asian investors in Zimbabwe.

The Chinese in particular have become notorious for their violation of the labour laws, which in some instances involves long working hours, poor salaries and lack of protective clothing as well as physical abuse of employees.

They have also come under fire for failing to create employment amid allegations they are bringing cheap labour from their country. The extremely poor quality of products they sell here has become a major concern among consumers.

Of late, the Chinese have been implicated in illegal activities such as smuggling of minerals and ivory and poaching.

Statistics released by the Zimbabwe Investment Authority show that China tops the list in terms of Foreign Direct Investments – having invested $100 million in the first five months of the year. Second is Malaysia with an investment of $11 million, while South Africa and Israel invested $7 million and $2,6 million respectively.

Economic analyst, Innocent Makwiramiti, said the Chinese had failed to fill the void left by Western investors and have become more looters than investors.

“If you look at the Chinese investors, they are coming with their own labour as well as other industrial materials that they should be getting from local industries. They have failed to create employment compared to Western investors, who come with their technology and skills and impart them to the locals,” said Makwiramiti.

Economist John Robertson argued that the Chinese had failed to respond to Zimbabwe’s investment requirements because they have failed to generate jobs or boost the country’s capacity to produce goods that can be exported.

“Their objective is to make money for China and we should not be encouraging that kind of investment,” he said.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions President, George Nkiwane, described the Chinese investors as the “worst employers” in the history of Zimbabwe and blamed government for being protective of the Asian investors.

“We have taken them to court on numerous occasions but with the protection that they have from government, we are not making any headway,” said Nkiwane.

Interviews with people in Harare’s Central Business District showed that public opinion was very much against the Chinese.

Said Last Chinodya (28) from Mufakose: “I have not yet seen anything that would justify the Chinese staying here. Despite their presence, we still have a high unemployment rate unlike during the days of Western investors. They are only here because of Zanu (PF) – their mission is to make money and go.”

Trycoat Garikayi (40), from Budiriro, said: “The Chinese have done little to help us because even if you look at the quality of goods they are producing; it tells you that they are more concerned with making money than developing Zimbabwe. Investments should generate employment.”

Titos Tsvangirai (37), said: “The Chinese have proved that they are not able to develop Zimbabwe because of their greedy nature. Some of them are behind activities such as poaching and some of the goods they bring here just tell you that they are using us as a dumping ground.”

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