The Chinese are better partners than some companies that have invested in the country in the past because they partner the government rather than go at it alone. This was said by Mr Brian Mudumi who is the President of the Zimbabwe-China Youth relations organisation.
‘Chinese companies have come in as a dependent partner rather than an independent one ‘he said. The Chinese have brought in funding and equipment and gone into business with the government allowing locals greater control of their natural resources. Anjin for example has gone into business with government.
But President of the Zimbabwe Diamond’s Workers Association Cosmas Sunguro questioned the partnerships. “Most of the people involved in these partnerships with Chinese companies are military officers and government officials. Nothing is left for the communities where these mining activities are being carried out’ he said.
This has created many problems for locals as the powerful military officers and government officials shield these companies from being accountable to the community. Companies are destroying the environment and violating the rights of locals with impunity but little can be done as they are protected by politicians.
He however praised the Chinese companies for developing infrastructure and transferring skills to locals. ‘They have built houses for villagers and they also teach us how to use machinery.’ he said
Some of these companies are not contributing to the Community Share ownership Schemes because they enjoy the protection of powerful political figures that are in management and sit on their boards.
Mr Sunguro castigated the government for allowing Chinese companies too much control especially during exploration of minerals. ‘Only Chinese workers are allowed at the section where diamonds are being sampled.’ None of the locals is aware of the quality or quantity of diamonds held underground’ he said
The problem is the government approached the Chinese with a begging bowl making it make too many concessions and crafting contracts that disadvantage locals. Government’s look east policy that excludes economic cooperation with other countries opens it up to exploitation.
Economist, Nyasha Muchichwa said government must engage everyone if it wanted the country to harness benefits from its mineral resources. He said ‘Zimbabwe trades with other countries such as South Africa, the US and the UK and China was in the top 4 trade partners of the country’
Government has to revisit its frosty relations with other countries in order to widen its trading options. They will negotiate better contracts if they have a wider option of investors to choose from.
Whether or not communities would benefit from Chinese investments in extractive industries depends on the policies that the government crafts. Corruption was also sited as a major reason why communities were not benefiting from the resources in their areas. Government officials who accept bribes from mining companies are acting against the interests of these communities.
The Zimbabwe Mineral Development Corporation (ZMDC) which was representing government interests in the Chiadzwa diamond fields failed to reinvest the revenue it realised into equipment that would allow it to exploit the resources in future without the assistance of foreigners.