From “all-weather friend” to dark east

I am heartened by the fact that President Robert Mugabe is awakening to a reality of which we have always been aware – that the Chinese and other Asian countries are not our all-weather friends.

The Zanu (PF) secretary expressed his frustration with his Look East buddies at the party’s annual conference in Chinhoyi last week, and warned the audience about the raw deals Zimbabwe was getting from Asia and the Middle East.

When Mugabe’s government adopted the Look East policy at the turn of the century, and paraded it as Zimbabwe’s panacea in the face of increasing isolation particularly by the west, many people were quick to point out the flawed nature, and questioned its sustainability.

Countries enter into relations with others because they have their own interests to promote. If they see no substantial gain in doing so, they get out or never go there. That is the reason why countries have embassies or consulates in some countries and not in others.

Countries in the East may not have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, but that is precisely because it was in their interest to do so.

China, for example, is slogging it out with the West for international dominance. That requires strategically positioning itself as a buffer against the West and the US, and one way of doing so is to oppose what your rival proposes.

If you look at it closely, there is nothing special that China, as a good example, has exclusively done for Zimbabwe. What the Chinese are doing in Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Nigeria is exactly what they are doing in Zimbabwe. Yet, you have never heard anyone from those countries shout from the rooftop that China is their all-weather friend.

They are fully aware China is investing in those countries precisely because it has a swollen population to deal with. China has no choice but to expand its commercial and subtle military activities into these countries because not doing so would lead to internal strife.

I wonder why it has taken President Mugabe this long to realise that his perceived friends are not what he thinks. Just look at the myriad deals that China has entered into with Zimbabwe over the last almost one and a half decades.

If these deals did not flop, they are gathering dust somewhere or have been written in a way that makes Zimbabwe a loser. Mugabe himself acknowledged so much at the Chinhoyi conference.

Yes, we have several Chinese investors in the country at the moment, but I would bet that their investments are not benefiting Zimbabweans. Much has been said about the Chiadzwa diamonds, especially with regard to Anjin that I am told is in fact a special purpose vehicle created by the Chinese army.

As we are speaking, Anjin, after years of super profits that were clearly siphoned out of the country, is busy whimpering for extra alluvial deposits after digging their claim dry.

I am challenging our researchers to investigate how many firms and individuals of Asian citizenship hold bank accounts in Zimbabwe, and if so, how much money is in those accounts. I am, however, confident that the findings will make a lot of us weep, because it is clear that millions of the money these people generate here are taken out of the country.

I don’t want to give the impression that I am xenophobic by making such reference to Asian people. Personally, I believe this is a global village where anyone from any country can exploit, legally, opportunities outside his or her own home country.

All I am trying to do is to demonstrate that Zanu (PF) has lived in a dangerous cocoon by regarding those people as all-weather friends. – If you’d like to comment on this, please contact [email protected]

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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