Politics & General News

Zimbabwe – a Chinese colony

Every since the turn of the millennium, when relations between Zimbabwe and the West reached their lowest ebb, the Chinese did not waste any time filling in the gab, especially through purported investments.

We witnessed the Chinese establishing a number of companies in various sectors of the economy, with a particular interest in mining and manufacturing. 

They have been major players in the extraction of gold, chrome, nickel, diamonds, and now lithium. 

Notable names include Arcadia Lithium Project acquired by Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt for US$ 422 million from Prospect Resources in 2021 and Bikita Lithium Mine acquired by Sinomine Resource Group (SRG).

There are also diamond miners Anjin Zimbabwe, China-Zimbabwe International Corporation, Afro-Sino Mining Resources, Indarama Gold Mine, and Chinajin Baki mining among numerous others.

However, while Zimbabwe needs these Chinese investments, it turns a blind eye to some of the governance factors that hinder Zimbabwe’s economic growth and benefits to communities.

This is due to poor safety standards, unsafe working conditions, unfair displacement measures, environmental damage, and low wages for the workers.

I have written on the callous forcible displacement of local communities from their ancestral lands for little to no compensation.

Nonetheless, there has been very little on the appalling treatment of those working for these Chinese companies operating in Zimbabwe.

I was given a rude awakening through messages I received from some of the maltreatment employees, who narrated their woeful abuse at the hands of the Chinese. 

This mistreatment ranges from slave-like recruitment processes to poor and dangerous working conditions as well as terribly low salaries. 

It is reported that at a gold mine near Kwekwe, one needs to first bribe the Chinese bosses before securing employment.

As if that is not horrible enough, prospective workers are made to work without any payment for a week, supposedly as part of the interview.

Some workers have gone for months without salaries, while the ‘lucky ones’ are paid weeks late. 

It is reported that a Chinese company in Bikita exports more than 50 truckloads of raw lithium daily to Mozambique.

However, they are doing nothing in terms of improving workers’ salaries and welfare as they hide behind a decline in global commodity prices. 

The majority of employees are said to be ‘contract workers’, who need to sign new contracts each month.

This deprives them of any benefits, such as medical aid and pensions, regardless of how long they work at those companies.

Intimidation and even physical abuse of workers is reported to be the order of the day at some of these Chinese entities operating in Zimbabwe. 

Similarly, when a road linking Gutu and Mutare, via Masvingo, was constructed, it is alleged that some villagers who were affected have not been compensated.

In addition, those staying close to a dam named Matezva are complaining of the pollution of water as a result of the dumping of chemicals by a nearby mining company.

There is the deplorable plight of those displaced from their ancestral lands in areas such as Marange – where diamond mining companies in the area have not ploughed anything of substance back into these communities.

These people still live in abject poverty, a whole twenty years after mining commenced.

If these communities have a classroom block or two constructed and their youth given menial jobs (where they are abused), then they are considered fortunate.

In all this, no action is taken by Zimbabwean authorities with the Chinese ostensibly allowed to violate human rights with impunity. 

It is widely believed that these companies are protected by the political elite in the country.

As the country commemorates 44 years of independence, one question stands out.

Just how free are we in Zimbabwe?

How has the welfare and wellbeing of ordinary citizens changed since 1980?

Or, is the truth not that we are just as, if not more, oppressed and subjugated as before independence?

What has only changed is the colour and origin of the oppressor and slave master. 

This can not be allowed to continue unchallenged – otherwise, thousands of brave Zimbabweans lost their lives in the 1970s for nothing.

*_● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.com, and visit Wikipedia page: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tendai_Ruben_Mbofana_*

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