By Sij Nucbe
HARARE, December 4, 2015 – AS PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s administration fetes the signing of so-called mega deals with Chinese President Xi Jinping Wednesday estimated at a billion dollars questions linger over what Harare is giving Beijing in return for the funding Zanu PF claims is the panacea to the country myriad economic problems.
While there is deafening silence to the public on the payment plan or the sources of the repayments for the mega deals, questions also abound whether the projects would revive the comatose economy considering that China last year pumped more $600 million without any meaningful changes to the country’s infrastructure and the general well-being of ordinary Zimbabweans.
Critics point out the Chinese investment in mining and agriculture has hardly transformed the two sectors for instance, consider as the major drivers of Zimbabwe’s economy. State apologist and former Zimbabwe ambassador to China Christopher Mutsvangwa told a foreign-based US radio that Chinese investment in agricultural, particularly in tobacco has put $800 million in the pockets of mostly new black farmers but critics have been quick to point out there is nothing to show in terms of rural development, adding that most rural dwellers still survived with less than a dollar a day.
“We have benefitted in the tobacco seci tor which has been revived with over 800million going into Zimbabwe pockets. The second largest economy in the whole world coming into your country and you think this man can just come for show off,” said Mutsvangwa.
But critics maintain while Xi visit has excited the not-so political and economic sophisticated Zanu PF faithful, China’s signing of 26 deals with South African president Jacob Zuma Wednesday in Pretoria indicated there was nothing special about Harare as China has a deliberate expansionist agenda in Africa. Mugabe signed deals valued at $4 billion while Zuma inked deals worth $6,5 billon.
While South Africa’s economy is more sophisticated than Zimbabwe, Mugabe is seen further mortgaging the country as he aims to maintain his octopus-grip on power allegedly to safe guard his future and that of his young family, critics say.
Ricky Mukonza, an international relations expert and political analysts says the value and number of deals signed between Beijing and Pretoria were not surprising, pointing out China is more interested in cementing trade relations with South African more than with Zimbabwe.
“The reason is simple. SA has a bigger economy and has more to offer to China than Zimbabwe. China like any other state is interested in pursuing its interests more than advancing those of any other country as the some Zimbabwean government officials want us to believe. It can thus be argued that the visit is by enlarge of cosmetic value and will not transform the Zimbabwean economy in a significant way,” said Mukonza
Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson of the Tendai Biti-led People’s Democratic Party, observes that XI visit did not result in the opening of “even a chicken run.”
“The investment deals pale in comparison with what China has invested in other African countries. We claim to be its best friend in Africa but clearly the money says otherwise. The fact that we are over the moon with celebrations simply shows a country used to chicken feed,” said Mafume.
He added that Mugabe administration is allowing for unprecedented asset stripping last seen during the colonial times.
“One only needs to look at what happened in Marange diamonds fields to see why there is so much secrecy. We will be burdened in debt like the days of the Chinese loans for reserve bank scotch carts which we are still to pay,” said Mafume
But the PDP spokesperson said judging from the non-activity in the stock market Xi’s visit was a dumb squib, from a man coming from the world’s second biggest economy.
“In all seriousness, his visits it should stimulate investment if planned right, that there is money in China is not in doubt .that we failed to get a big chance is an indictment on us and this thing called Zanu PF which masquerades as a ruling government when it is in fact a ruining government .it acknowledges no mistake and learns no lessons even after so many years in office.”
Rawlings Magede, a Harare-based political analyst, says it would be difficult for Mugabe to disclose how Harare intended paying back the long, since Zanu PF has a history of getting under wraps its financial dealings with China, Zanu PF mandarins consider as its all-weather friends.
“Taxpayers’ money is being used so revealing the source of the money might receive hostile reception among citizens. the idea of loans is coming at a time when there is suffering among citizens where a myriad of challenges are being faced such as power cuts, unemployment etc.so very little time has been devoted to probe the conditions of the loans,” said Magede.