Of Chinese deals and mega propaganda

If the nine or so deals that President Robert Mugabe signed during a recent one week working visit to China materialise after all, that would be a plus for Zimbabwe. The country needs every cent it can get, in cash or kind. The problem, though, is that the so-called mega deals have been mired in, and spoilt by, political spins and propaganda.

Tawanda Majoni
Tawanda Majoni

It is clear that the hapless outfit in government that initiated the idea of the deals has come to realise that there is little chance that they would translate into palpable gains for the economy. To counter this reality, as has always been the tendency with successive Zanu (PF) governments, the spin-doctors are hard at work, transforming achievements that they wished to score from the deals into a web of propaganda in order to have us believe they did not spend all that time in vain.

The first and perhaps tallest form of propaganda is at the international level and works to the advantage of both Mugabe and his perceived Chinese “all weather friends”. By going to China with all that drama, media hype and pomp, Mugabe was basically seeking to send out a statement to the western world. In the spirit of the Look East policy, which has by and large remained futile, he was just telling the west that he can rely on China if they choose to continue circumventing him and his government.

The president must therefore have hoped that signing the deals would then put pressure on the west to come and invest in Zimbabwe. The western world would always be unsettled by increased Chinese presence in African because it also needs our resources and markets.

Unless something serious happens in Zimbabwe’s political matrix, the European, a symbol of the west, will resume direct engagement with Harare in November after more than a decade during which it avoided the Mugabe government. That re-engagement is supposed to, among other things, offset investment from European countries. But that investment is not guaranteed.

A lot needs to be done by the Zanu (PF) government to ensure the climate is conducive for outside investment. Given the possibility that re-engagement with the EU might not necessarily bring better fortunes especially through investment, the government should have decided to lure western investors by making it appear as though China was already stampeding to grab a big chunk of the Zimbabwean economic cake.

For China, the “mega deals” symbolise the Asian country’s growing stature, obviously a bitter pill that the west would have to swallow considering that they are direct competitors. It is no secret that the world has for a long time considered Zimbabwe a strategic investment source. That is why there is so much attention around this small nation that is well endowed with minerals and other forms of natural resources that remain under-exploited. Thus, any country seen to sign “mega deals” with Harare are bound to be seen as scoring it big. In fact, I would not be surprised if the deals are subtle grandstanding meant only to excite the west and keep it on its toes.

Coming closer home, I have noticed vain attempts to sanitise the deals following acid scrutiny by citizens. One big local lie that Mugabe and his team have been trying very hard to tell us is that they are not concerned about cash injections. George Charamba, the presidential spokesperson, fielded a fairly long interview with a local weekly. He claimed that the Chinese deals were meant to create wealth through China’s support of local infrastructural development instead of direct cash injections from the Asian country. That, to me, was an unyielding effort to have us believe that Zimbabwe does not need cash from China. Yet it does.

Ask Patrick Chinamasa who knows the real truth and has been to China a couple of times to seek loans from that country. The fact that China saw it better not to give Zimbabwe loans but signatures for projects in energy, agriculture, communication, etc does not take away our need for mega cash injections. The last time I checked, economists were saying we needed at least $10 billion to modestly resuscitate the economy through financial support to industrial production and other means. This is, therefore, a mere face saver for the Mugabe outfit that never seems to get what it always claims China is ready to give it.

In any case, the mega deal spin-doctors are deliberately omitting to tell us the conditions that the Chinese attached to memoranda that were signed. Mugabe and his team were told to go put their house in order in order from them to receive the support that the Chinese pledged. The consummation of the deals, therefore, depends on whether the Zanu (PF) government indeed manages to place its house in order by making acceptable proposals to meet their side of the bargain. No clean house, no deal. Omitting this essential dimension to the deal reduces the whole thing to propaganda. A responsible government ought to tell its people the truth, not half truths or lies. – To comment on this article, please contact [email protected]

Post published in: Analysis
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