Locals won't benefit from China-Zim mega-deals - opposition
Harare - So-called mega-deals signed between China and Zimbabwe this week will “employ very few Zimbabweans and involve very few companies,” a senior opposition official has warned.
Writing on Twitter, former education minister David Coltart of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said: “We desperately need construction deals which will involve our architects, our engineers, our builders, our workers, our companies not Chinese.”
In a visit heralded with much excitement by Zimbabwean state media, Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited the country for just over 24 hours before flying to South Africa on Wednesday. It was the first visit of a Chinese head of state to the southern African country in 19 years.
During his brief stopover in Harare, Xi’s delegation, which included government and business officials reportedly signed 12 deals with President Robert Mugabe, including a loan worth more than $1bn to refurbish the Hwange Power Station.
The state-run Herald newspaper said on Wednesday that the deals, which include the building of a new parliament building outside Harare, would “usher in a new era of technical and economic cooperation between the two countries”.
Teetering on the brink of economic crisis, Zimbabwe desperately needs foreign help, and Mugabe’s government appeared keen to portray the Chinese visit as, in part at least, the turnaround the country has been waiting for.
Coltart’s note of caution was echoed by others on social media, with Twitter user Suzgo Chingati saying: “The problem with Chinese loans [is that] such terms and conditions are not negotiable [and] they bring their own manpower and 50% of materials.”
Journalist Zenzele Ndebele wrote: “My question is how many years will it take to have these deals implemented?”
However, Harare-based blogger Ranga Mberi said Zimbabweans should rethink their views on China. “Some of our people still think, that it’s not ‘investment’ if it’s not from Europe or Washington.
“China is just doing what China does; putting its wares on the table. What we get depends on what we bring to the table, and how well we bargain.”
The finer points of Zimbabwe’s side of the agreements haven’t been made public. But independent business news wire, The Source, said most of the loan for the power station will be repaid at an interest rate of just 2%.
Shunned by the West over its poor human rights and democratic record since 2000, Mugabe’s government has been pursuing a “Look East” policy since 2000 to try to lure much-needed foreign capital.