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Zimbabwe becoming a Chinese colony?
June 29, 2012, 12:26 pm

“Zimbabwe becoming a Chinese colony” was the title of a short piece by Maxwell Saungweme this week. The author invited the public to submit their own views on the topic from people who had personal experience of China’s involvement in Zimbabwe.

Sadly, I no longer live in Zimbabwe so I’m not eligible but I know that before I left in 2004 there was plenty of evidence of Chinese involvement – specially where I lived in the north east. However, it is not just Zimbabwe that is in danger of being colonised by the Chinese. Nothing indicates more clearly China’s growing economic colonisation of the western world than the ‘Made in China’ label. From underwear to top coats, from head to heel you might say, the clothes on sale in British stores bear the ‘Made in China’ label. Well-known British brands, once renowned for their craftsmanship and quality are now out-sourcing to China and the reason is clear: cheap labour. With a population of 1.3 billion, China has to find jobs to satisfy the increasingly large urban populace or run the danger of serious unrest. Occasional stories of disturbances indicate that the fear of serious unrest is ever present with the Chinese authorities.

It is not only in the area of the retail trade that China is spreading its tentacles around the world. Africa’s vast mineral resources are hugely attractive to the Chinese. With sparse mineral reserves of their own and with the willing co-operation of African governments looking for capital to exploit those resources, China has found a highly lucrative market. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe’s ‘Look East’ policy has played right into China’s hands. Human rights issues take second position after the profit motive. The Anjin diamond mine in Chiadzwa is a case in point. Anjun is owned by the Chinese but while the Zimbabwean military are so heavily involved in Chiadzwa we cannot expect any human rights issues or sustainable development policies to be put in place, as Global Witness points out.

Meanwhile everyone is getting in on the act: the Commissioner of Police has applied for a diamond licence; it is rumoured that an army chief owns half of Anjin and the CIO are rewarded in diamonds from a certain Chinese businessman. This same man, one Sam Pa, is reported to be financing Zanu PF in exchange for access to diamonds. An anonymous Politburo member reveals that it is Zanu PF’s intention to grab all the diamond mines, with help from the military and the Chinese no doubt.  Now we hear there is the possibility that Russia may supply Zimbabwe with military helicopters in exchange for the country’s platinum deposit which is said to be the second largest in the world. As I said, everyone is getting in on the act but it has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the world. Global Witness has called for an investigation into the mystery Chinese businessman, Sam Pa and his involvement in Zimbabwe’s diamond mines.

Does all this show that Zimbabwe is becoming a colony of China as Saungweme claims? The original colonisers came with the bible in one hand and a gun in the other; they wanted territory for the British Empire but they also wanted the mineral resources. That was a century ago but today colonisation takes a different form. Now, according to Saungweme, the Chinese are literally buying up Zimbabwe. They are everywhere, he claims, and they are putting ordinary Zimbabweans out of business. The Chinese have, in effect, taken over the retail trade and market traders and street vendors are having a hard time competing with cheap Chinese goods.

The fact that all this is happening with the approval, not to say encouragement, of the government of Zimbabwe is deeply disturbing. The concept of colonialism usually implies that it is done against the wishes of the indigenous people, the ones being colonised. In this case, it appears that a government dominated by Zanu PF is only too happy to have China as the coloniser. Is it a case of ‘anyone as long as it’s not the whites’ or is it just plain greed – on both sides?  
Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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Cutting spending on foreign trips
June 22, 2012, 11:57 pm

Just a week ago, Robert Mugabe called an emergency cabinet meeting which he chaired. It was resolved that the government immediately cut spending on foreign trips; they also announced their intention to ensure that all monies generated by ministries should be submitted to the Treasury. It seems that several ministries have not submitted revenue to the Treasury; in particular the Ministry of Mines which controls the diamonds has submitted only $30 million instead of the $240 million that was expected.
    The reason for these measures is the fact that Zimbabwe’s economy is in crisis, despite the massive diamond wealth that should be benefiting the whole country. Announcing stringency measures is one thing but getting Zanu PF ministers to abide by the strictures is quite another. No sooner had the cabinet resolved that all diamond revenue must be submitted to the Treasury than the Minister of Mines himself declared that his ministry would not subscribe to the resolutions on mining revenue! The Minister of Finance suspects that diamond revenue is going elsewhere, perhaps to fund a parallel government? A government minister confirmed this week that the army has a 40% claim in the most lucrative diamond mine, the ZMDC own another 10% and the Chinese own the rest. Ironically, at the same time that this was revealed, Robert Mugabe announced that there were to be no mining licences granted to ‘foreigners’ – as always the definition of ‘foreigners’ does not apply to ‘our old friends’ – Mugabe’s description - the Chinese. Supposedly, Morgan Tsvangirai’s visit to China was an indication that he has a shrewd political eye on China’s future involvement in the Zimbabwean economy. That may be good for China but whether it’s good for Zimbabwe is a moot point.
    Meanwhile, MPs of both parties have been warned by the Minister of Finance to expect increased austerity in 2012. Apparently, MP.s hotel bills  have already exceeded $70.000. Contrast that with the fact that government hospitals have run out of ARVs and you see that Zimbabwe is a land of painful contrasts. HIV/ Aids patients have now been told to buy their own drugs; a month’s supply will cost them $120; finding that amount for an unemployed person can’t be easy. For the Minister of Mines who can afford to spend $22 million buying a bank such a paltry sum is a mere drop in the ocean. MDC MPs are entitled to wonder how the Minister can afford $22 million on his ministerial salary of $40.000 a year.
    Less than a week after the special cabinet meeting on the state of the economy, Tendayi Biti announced that the two ministries  failing to implement austerity measures, Defence and Home Affairs, are both busy illegally recruiting soldiers and police personnel – just in time for elections, no doubt. By fair means or foul, Mugabe is determined to win that election. He might not have another chance, he will be 89 years old by the time of the next election. The Summit of Sustainable Development in Brazil gives him what could be his last opportunity to strut the world stage. It is reported that he is taking a 92 strong delegation with him at an estimated cost of $7 million. Grace Mugabe will, of course, go with him, “Zanu PF will never lose an election.” she said this week and her reward for such unswerving loyalty is this foreign trip where she can shop to her heart’s content. When even the war veterans are complaining that the government owes them money, it is a sure sign that this diamond–rich country is in trouble. Diplomats from the EU have been invited by Zanu PF to tour the Chiadzwa diamond fields; “we have nothing to hide” say Zanu PF but cynics say that it’s all part of a ploy to get sanctions lifted. Even if that happens, it will make little difference to the majority of Zimbabweans since the sanctions are targeted at specific members of the regime. With sanctions gone it would be so much easier for the Zanu PF chefs  - and the generals – to deposit their diamond wealth in foreign banks – no questions asked.
Yours in the (continuing) struggle Pauline Henson.

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Old wine in new bottles
June 15, 2012, 1:28 pm

Defending ‘national interests’ is, on the face of it, a perfectly legitimate procedure in reaction to an external threat to a country’s sovereignty. Measures which might otherwise be seen as repressive or impinging on individual liberties are permissible in times of national emergency, as in the case of physical invasion by a foreign power. The problem lies in how you interpret ‘national interests’. 
The presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, made his definition very clear when he asked the same question at the launching of the new Talk Radio. “You must align your policy to national interest” he said and went on to expand on what he meant. “First, that we are all Zimbabweans, that’s the key element”, he emphasised. “Second, we became free through a war of Independence and that is sacrosanct – sacred  - and whoever participated in it must be given that regard. That objective must remain regnant (pertinent) for all time, for all our people for all generations. Finally, we intend to remain sovereign for all times.”
Nothing new there, as Morgan Tsvangirai commented, “It’s old wine in new bottles.” In the light of Charamba’s definition which, in effect, dictated editorial policy to the new Talk Radio , it’s hard to believe that this ‘independent’ radio station will be any different from the ZBC which churns out pro-Mugabe propaganda. Just why Zimbabwe needs two radio stations doing the same job is not clear. The giveaway is in the Zanu PF slogan ‘Zimbabwe will never be a colony again’; in the years since that tired old slogan was first used there has been no invasion of any kind against the ‘sovereign’ state of Zimbabwe. So who exactly is this unknown enemy that we are all being warned against? The generals made the answer very clear last week when they stipulated that it was anyone who disagrees with Robert Mugabe. Put that together with Charamba’s remark that “anyone who participated in the struggle” must be regarded as ‘sacred’ and you see exactly where all this is leading: Zimbabwe’s national interest is to keep Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe in power for all time. In short, it’s nothing more than politicking aimed at the next election. If the new Talk Radio sticks to Charamba’s directive, Zimbabweans will be subjected to yet another ‘Voice of the People’ telling them who to vote for.
With the police, the army and the broadcasting media all firmly on his side, it would seem Mugabe’s victory at the next election is practically certain. As for the independent print media, it is presumably just a matter of time before some Zanu PF appointed judge decides that independent papers are not in the ‘national interest’ and they are axed. For the ordinary citizen who feels aggrieved by some action deemed to be in the ‘national interest, for example, as the victim of some random war veteran’s greedy desire for more land, there is nowhere to turn for impartial judgement. War veterans, even if their actions are plainly criminal, are deemed to be ‘sacrosanct’ because they fought in the Struggle. According to George Charamba, they are protected ‘for all time’, however much they abuse another individual’s human rights.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world stands by, apparently satisfied that Zimbabwe is well on the road to being a real democracy now that it has a Government of National Unity. Zimbabweans inside the country know better. Only this week we learn that Zanu PF, the police and the Registrar General are working together to rig the next election. People are being bussed in from outside areas to register so that the Voters’ Roll is overloaded with Zanu PF supporters; militant Zanu PF youth are force marching villagers to political meetings; in Mudzi a Zanu PF chief is extorting money from villagers and, to cap it all, 500 Zanu PF supporters have invaded a wild-life ranch in Chiredzi. It is to be hoped that our four-legged friends are aware of the invaders’ ‘sacrosanct’ status...Elephants beware, not even mock charges are allowed against these ‘sacred’ humans!
Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson

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The army will fight with their blood?
June 10, 2012, 11:14 am

Another military officer has publicly declared his loyalty to Robert Mugabe. “The army will fight with their blood any leader whose policies are different from Mugabe’s,” he said. So much for a tolerant society and hopes for a democratic future in Zimbabwe! Again and again, we hear the claim that it’s all about defending the freedoms won by the Liberation Struggle; the current crop of military men apparently believe that one of those freedoms is unswerving loyalty to Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe. Didymus Mutasa remarked that just because soldiers and the police support Zanu PF, it does not mean the next elections will be violent and the President’s spokesperson, George Charamba said it was ‘OK for them (the military) to be involved in politics because they fought in the struggle’.
    This constant harping back to the Liberation Struggle makes it difficult to see the way ahead for the country. With a population made up largely of people who were not even born when that struggle was being fought, it is all ancient history to them. All societies must learn from their past but to make the past the lens through which contemporary events are seen leads to a distorted picture. There was a common enemy then but that enemy no longer exists. Zanu PF, however, appears to need an enemy and judging from what these military men are saying, the enemy is anyone who disagrees with Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe; to me that sounds suspiciously like dictatorship. Morgan Tsvangirai has described the generals’ statements as ‘treasonous’ and says – not for the first time - that he will confront Robert Mugabe with them. Robert Mugabe is unlikely to take any action against generals who openly support him. He has not said a word about the behaviour of his so-called war veterans who continue to cause mayhem in the country. Even Zanu PF MP, Oppah Muchinguri admitted this week that Zanu PF politicians have been known to hire the services of the notorious Chipangano gang. There is violence and tension in the Harare suburb of Epworth where war veterans are violently displacing bona fide residents from their homes on the grounds that these home-owners are members of the MDC. By definition, to quote the military man’s words, ‘their policies are different from Robert Mugabe’s’
    In spite of all this evidence of sporadic violence up and down the country, SADC ‘commends’ the coalition government for the progress it has made! Yet, according to Prime Minister Tsvangirai, SADC was ‘shocked’ by the murder of Cephas Magura in Mudzi last week. Speaking at Magura’s funeral, Tsvangirai said ‘the police should have done more to prevent it’ to which the police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena responded that the police were ‘investigating it all.’ Whether they will ever make their findings public remains to be seen but past experience tell us that it is unlikely. JOMIC, the body which is charged with monitoring the GPA has called on leaders to ‘walk the talk’ on violence. The EU delegation based in Zimbabwe also voiced its concern over the Mudzi murder but there are no signs that Mugabe is about to rein in his dogs of war despite all the voices raised in condemnation. The violence in Epworth continues and this week the police intervened only when a joint Zanu PF/MDC report was made to them.
    Civil society groups have declared that they want the UN to set up a permanent monitoring group in Zimbabwe. With all the calls on the UN’s resources from the different trouble spots around the world, that is almost certainly not going to happen. The news that Zimbabwe is to send peace keepers to Syria, one of the world’s most explosive trouble spots, can only provoke wry amusement. Instead of going half way across the world to keep the peace, Zimbabwe could do with genuine peace keepers at home. As the economic situation continues to deteriorate, ordinary people are finding it harder to survive and, however well-intentioned Finance Minister Biti may be, he is powerless to change the situation, faced as he is with empty coffers. The combination of poverty, violence and political insecurity does not suggest a bright future for the post-Liberation generation. 
Yours in the (continuing) struggle. Pauline Henson

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Charles Taylor
June 1, 2012, 1:32 pm

Charles Taylor’s appearance at the International Criminal Court, immaculate in a grey business suit with scholarly-looking gold-rimmed specs, certainly did not resemble the image of a mass murderer – but then people often don’t look the way we expect them to. Appearances can be deceptive, I remember reading somewhere that Adolph Hitler could look absolutely charming with children, smiling tenderly down at little blonde haired boys and girls - as long as they had good Aryan blood of course.


 Towards those with Jewish blood he had a very different attitude as the Nazi death camps proved.


    Taylor was the first former Head of State to be tried since the Nuremberg War Trials in 1946. He was charged with eleven counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and aiding and abetting Sierra Leone’s rebels, the RUF. In some UK news outlets much was made of the fact that Taylor was tried before a European court comprising all white men. It is a regrettable fact that the African Union has not seen fit – for whatever reason - to set up its own court to hear human rights cases. The important point, as I see it, is that Charles Taylor and other transgressors against human rights are tried publicly for their misdeeds; justice must be seen to be done. During the trial, it was emphasised that while Taylor may not have blood on his hands, may not even have been present when the crimes were committed, he is morally responsible. The message coming out of Taylor’s trial, for Africa and the world, is that no matter how long it takes, eleven years in Taylor’s case, in the end human rights violators will be brought to justice.


    Just over twenty-four hours after the UN’s Navi Pillay had left Zimbabwe an MDC activist was stoned to death in Mudzi. In her last public lecture before she left the country, Pillay had strongly reminded the Zimbabwean authorities that Zimbabwe had agreed at the Conference of Human Rights held in Vienna in 1993 that all human rights are universal, they cannot flourish in isolation. Mudzi is certainly isolated and remote but the killers of the MDC man are well-known to the police, a group of Zanu PF thugs, led if I understand it correctly by the son of a notorious woman who was responsible for the tsunami of violence that deluged the area in the 2008 elections. Human rights have little meaning for the thugs who perpetrate hideous crimes, often in remote rural areas, that go unpunished because of their allegiance to Zanu PF.  The MDC activist was killed after a police-sanctioned MDC rally and on Wednesday it was reported that six Zanu PF activists had been arrested for the murder; only time will tell if the men are brought to trial.


    Glenys Kinnock, a former MEP, asked this week why the British government is not pushing for Robert Mugabe’s arrest for ‘crimes against humanity’ but it seems that Britain, the EU and Africa are turning a near-blind eye to the Mugabe regime’s human rights violations. The BBC presenter who has got caught up in the nightmare of greed and petty jealousies that dominate Zanu PF politics will no doubt have much to tell the British authorities about conditions inside Zimbabwe when he finally returns to the UK. Despite a High Court ruling that his passport should be returned and he should be allowed to leave the country, the Immigration authorities alleged that the BBC man had lied on his visa application. He is now free to leave, apparently, but it was hardly good publicity for Zimbabwe as a tourist destination, despite the agreements Mugabe signed about hosting the World Tourism General Assembly in August.


    Meanwhile Charles Taylor has two weeks to appeal against his sentence of fifty years in a British prison. Zimbabweans may wonder if we will ever see Mugabe, as the former Head of State, stand trial?  His own determination not to leave centre stage combined with Russian and Chinese support may ensure Mugabe feels his position is secure – providing he wins the next election, of course. It is worth noting that Zimbabwe has still not passed the Human Rights Bill; in the feverish atmosphere that often precedes elections, we will see just how committed Zanu PF politicians and police are to human rights.


Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.

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