FOLLOWING the collapse of relations with its former Western allies such as the United States and United Kingdom, Zimbabwe turned to China for succour.
A notion, usually advanced by the West, that China is the new colonial power in Africa is not new and the Asian giant’s relationship with Zimbabwe has been a subject of particular focus.
This is because the southern African country has more natural resources and mineral wealth than most of its neighbours and much of the continent, where extreme poverty is very widespread.
Aid organisations say 72% of the country’s 16 million people live in poverty, with 16% in extreme poverty. This need for aid in Zimbabwe is acute.
But Zimbabwe lacks the goodwill from the wider world and for much of the period since the turn of the new millennium, was considered a pariah State for its
alleged human rights abuses, electoral theft by the ruling Zanu PF authorities and failure to service debts.
Since 2000 and up to 2017, China offered Zimbabwe US$1,7 billion in loans for infrastructure projects. Cumulatively, Chinese foreign direct investment since
2003 reached nearly US$7 billion, with more flowing in year-on-year.
Zimbabwe’s trade balance compares favourably with other African countries. In 2015, it exported US$766 million worth of goods to China and imported US$546
China has funded a number of projects that have benefited locals and these include the Mahusekwa District Hospital, donation of three batches of medical
equipment worth over US$2 million, dispatch of 150 Chinese medical doctors and the establishment of the Cervical Cancer Detection and Treatment Centre.
Following the devastation of Cyclone Idai, the Asian giant donated to Zimbabwe US$800 000. In terms of food aid, this year alone, China donated 10 165 tonnes
of rice and funded the drilling of 500 boreholes, among other things.
Chinese support has benefited several African countries with infrastructural development in Kenya and Ethiopia. Zimbabwe, however, has been found wanting, as
there have been several cases of abuse of such goodwill.
Currently, Harare is still battling chronic water challenges despite China availing US$144 million for the upgrade of its obsolete water reticulation system targeting Morton Jaffray Water Treatment Works, Warren Control Pump Station, Alex Park Pump Station, Letombo Pump Station and Crowborough.
Several grants that have also been availed by China appear to have been abused, with Zimbabwe also failing to leverage its mineral resources for capital due to, among other things, corruption and mismanagement.
Other countries have leveraged on support from China to develop and modernise their infrastructural systems. In Botswana, for instance, China Railway Seventh
Group Botswana (Pvt) Ltd constructed a “spaghetti” road to ease congestion in Francistown. The development was part of the country’s efforts to reform its urban transport system.
Zimbabwe’s failure to service some of her debts to China has seen it failing to derive maximum benefit from the Asian giant’s support, creating suspicions that
the Chinese were in Zimbabwe only to milk the country dry of its mineral resources.
Yet the relationship is about mutual co-operation. It’s a win-win for both countries, so the thinking that the Chinese are exploiting our resources speaks of
skewed mentality we have fostered. This is not helpful.
Is it not ironic that some top politicians are spreading hate language about the Chinese when it is Zimbabwe which turned to the East Asian giant.
We believe it is time we build a community of a shared future and achieve our vision.
We need to ask ourselves hard questions and see how some African countries have managed to create truly mutually beneficial relationships by honouring their
end of the bargains.