BY SHAME MAKOSHORI
CHINA’S usually quiet multinationals, controlling substantial interests in Zimbabwe’s economy, threw away courtesy and diplomacy on Sunday, standing up to rebuff “deplorable and groundless accusations” made by the civil society.
Twenty-seven Zimbabwean civic society organisations courted the Chinese firms’ ire after piling a raft of accusations, such as fuelling extensive economic inequalities in the southern African country, where the Chinese claimed they have lifted 100 000 people from unemployment after pumping billions of United States dollars to prop up Harare’s under fire economy.
The rift, a culmination of resentment that has been building up since confrontation erupted last year, marked the first bold move by NGOs to fight on behalf of Zimbabweans.
It follows communities’ red flag over muscle flexing by a string of Chinese miners accused of displacing villagers living close to lucrative chrome, gold and coal claims, the latest of which is the Dinde community in Binga.
Villagers have complained that their ancestral lands have been invaded by Chinese miners, and sanctuaries have been decimated in the rush for Zimbabwe’s minerals.
But in a rare response to the widening criticism, the Chamber of Chinese Enterprises in Zimbabwe (CCEZ) blew back.
In its emotional response, the CCEZ, which represents some of the world’s biggest corporations, came close to admitting serious transgressions by its members, but quickly reminded the NGOs that “it is not within our space to correct perceived legal gaps or inadequacies in laws’ in the country.
“We strongly deplore and oppose groundless accusations that are malicious and driven by falsehoods,” the CCEZ hit back. Our member companies employ more than 100 000 local people throughout different sectors, worth billions in US dollars of investment.
“We have done this heeding the clarion call that, ‘Zimbabwe in Open for Business’ and in line with Zimbabwe’s aspirational targets such as achieving a US$12 billion mining economy by 2023 and Vision 2030 of achieving and upper middle-income economy by 2030.
“Instead of engaging in microphone diplomacy and manipulation of public opinion, anyone or any civil society can resort to legal means if any of our member companies does anything illegal.
“People, who engage in microphone diplomacy, always have their clandestine political agendas,” said the CCEZ.
It said it stood by President Xi Xinping’s undertaking to work with Zimbabwe.
Allegations against Chinese investors are varied.
Apart from alleged human rights violations, anger has mounted over what unions claim are unfair labour practices and environmental degradation.
Chinese firms have denied wrong doing.
On Sunday, they dared their adversaries to initiate “inspections by any relevant government departments”, instead of orchestrating “malicious accusations and negative publicity with xenophobic undertones that are being systemically thrown at us”.
It is not only in Zimbabwe that the Chinese have thrown away soft diplomacy.
As accusations mounted across advanced economies that negligence by China had sparked the explosion and spread of the COVID–19 pandemic, Beijing’s diplomats replaced courtesy with intimidation.
Now increasingly called “Wolf Diplomats” in some countries, Beijing’s emissaries have mutated into combative defenders against accusation over the pandemic, as they explain and defend the Asian economic giant’s foreign policy.
On Sunday, the CCEZ said in spite of the massive opposition in Zimbabwe, it’s members — controlling “billions” in investments, were still determined to help Zimbabwe ride of its myriad crises.
“Though we are deeply concerned about the proliferation of malicious accusations…, CCEZ remains resolute in our resolve to foster good co-operation between the two beautiful countries of China and Zimbabwe and our people,” the chamber said.