Zimbabwe: Working for the Chinese in Zimbabwe

Over 300,000 teenage school leavers in Zimbabwe are currently working for Chinese shop-owners. One of them, Meagan Ngwenya, claims to be heavily exploited.

Meagan Ngwenya (18) is an orphan who has already worked for a variety of Chinese employers. She accuses them of unfair labour practices.

Ngwenya spoke to RNW at her current Chinese-run shop which sells clothing and vehicle-parts. “Since 2012, a year after I dropped out of school, I have been working for one Chinese boss after the other; often for little or no payment, which renders life hard for me.”

She claims to have been exposed to cruel treatment and extremely long working hours. “There are limited formal jobs here and I have found it hard to secure one, and as a result I continue to toil in shops owned by Chinese. This is my sixth job working for Chinese shop owners.”

Continue reading

NGOs, weapons of “populist/humanitarian” imperialism, now wielded by competing imperialists in the new scramble for Africa

[From the Crusades and in the earliest years of colonialism, conquests and conquistadores arrived with more than guns and swords and armies.  They brought Bibles, and missionaries, and, in time, Christian charities, anthropologists, humanitarians and investors, intelligence operatives of CIA and other varieties.  In time, the restructuring of direct colonial relations into neo-colonial forms introduced by the Ford Foundation, vast arrays of “civil society” groups, cultural programs and comprador governments and training programs for junior officers and police captains.  And these came from throughout the global imperialist system, but unevenly.  Largely dominated by the US, with increasing inputs from Europe, there were parallel NGO-type ventures launched by the Soviets during its waning years, and growing Islamic charities and Jewish charities.  None of which were accountable to the local populations they each claimed to serve and represent.  Now, as the world imperialist system is confronted by ever-sharpening crisis, the US/EU hegemonic bloc is no longer riding securely and unchallengable or unchallenged, and so the growing competitive imperialist powers and blocs-in-formation are bringing similar instruments into the developing fray (which is still largely regional but getting some global features).  Not surprisingly, the ever-growing-imperialist China is opening this field of political and cultural cultivation to match their economic onslaught in Africa and elsewhere.  The ventures described here have not often been clarified, but along with their media work (CCTV) and their BRICS “development” initiatives, it bears watching and giving close attention.  Worldwide, revolutionary forces are learning to keep their distance from these imperialist tools and to carefully guard their independence and revolutionary initiative. — Frontlines ed.]

Africa-China4Challenging opportunity

By Liu Hongwu (China Daily), 2013-04-26

Increased grassroots engagements will help Chinese NGOs blaze new trail

Increased engagements and people-to-people exchanges, especially between non-governmental organizations from China and Africa, have given a new dimension and perspective to what Africa and the rest of the world thinks about China.

Taking a cue from the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000, many Chinese companies are spreading their wings in Africa and are fast becoming vital parts for Chinese NGOs.

Chinese NGOs have ensured that their activities are broad-based and cover important segments like healthcare, environmental protection and education. Prominent among them are the China NGO Network for International Exchanges and the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation. Several national and regional commerce chambers like the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade are also doing projects in Africa. Academic institutions and groups like the Chinese Society of Asian and African Studies are also in the fray.

According to current estimates, there are more than 100 Chinese NGOs in Africa. There are several factors that are unique to these engagements. Continue reading

Swaziland: teachers protest shuttered schools

Teachers demonstrate in the streets of the Swazi capital, Mbabane (AFP, Jinty Jackson)

(AFP) – September 15, 2011

MBABANE — Around 500 Swazi teachers marched through the capital Mbabane on Thursday to protest the closure of schools due to the kingdom’s severe budget crisis.

Teachers handed a petition to government demanding it pay over $11 million (eight million euros) into the school system by the end of Friday.

“Failure to do that will cause chaos which no one will be able to stop. We will be left with no option but to mobilise parents and children to join rolling mass action,” the Swaziland National Association of Teachers said in the petition.

Most schools failed to open this week for the start of a new term.

Principals say they no longer have the money to run them because government has not paid fees for orphans since January. Swaziland has the world’s highest HIV infection rate, and orphans make up a significant part of the student population. Continue reading

Libya exposes risks of China’s African ventures

March 02, 2011

BEIJING (AP) — Tens of thousands of Chinese workers are scrambling to escape the chaos in Libya, highlighting the risks taken by Chinese businesses piling into unstable African countries in search of oil, gas and other resources.

Beijing is taking unprecedented steps to aid the evacuation, sending charter flights and ferries along with military transport planes and dispatching a navy frigate to provide security for its citizens in Libya, where increasingly violent clashes are threatening to transform a 15–day popular rebellion into a civil war.

About 32,000 Chinese — most working on construction projects or providing oil field services — have been whisked out of Libya as of Wednesday, with another 3,000 waiting to be airlifted out of the desert in the country’s deep south, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.

Analysts say the crisis underscores the need for contingency planning as China’s investments in Africa soar into the tens of billions of dollars.

While no Chinese have been reported killed or injured in Libya, Chinese businesses and construction sites have been looted and workers forced from their dormitories. Chinese companies stand to lose financially from deals abruptly halted, including a half–finished public housing project being built by state–owned contractor China State Construction Engineering Corp. worth 17.6 billion yuan ($2.67 billion). The company says the project’s future is uncertain.

Another state–run company, China Railway Construction Corp., said it was concerned over the fate of three projects worth a total of more than $4.2 billion, especially losses of equipment and building materials. Other Chinese engineering, telecommunications and energy companies also face losses, although it was unclear what the total figure would be, according to the authoritative China Business News newspaper.

The fighting between rebel forces and loyalists of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi isn’t expected to have an impact on China’s burgeoning economic links with Africa, but it serves as a reminder of how conditions can turn dramatically desperate in countries lacking strong institutions and prone to political conflict.

Chasing opportunities where others fear to tread, Chinese businesses have long accepted such dangers.

Chinese businesses drawn to the continent in search of oil, gas, copper and other resources are expected to have invested $50 billion in Africa by 2015, according to a forecast from South Africa’s Standard Bank.

Across Africa, including in countries such as Congo with only partially functioning governments, Chinese companies are building stadiums, roads and railways, projects often funded by low–interest loans from Chinese state–owned banks in exchange for access to mineral wealth.

China’s trade with Africa passed $100 billion last year, boosted by cuts in tariffs on African exports, and is due to more than double to $300 billion by 2015, according to Standard Bank.

The Chinese presence has been largely welcomed by local leaders eager for investment, but has at times fueled resentment over poor treatment of African workers and the tendency of Chinese companies to import labor from China. Increasingly, Chinese private businesses are also playing major roles in retail, food production and manufacturing in Africa, sometimes at the cost of local players.

Among recent incidents, two Chinese mine mangers face attempted murder charges for firing upon striking workers in Zambia, where local unions have long complained about poor pay and working conditions at Chinese–invested businesses. Chinese, meanwhile, have been victims of violence, murder and kidnapping in countries from Afghanistan to Ethiopia.

Chinese companies have also gained a reputation for exploiting corruption and inefficiencies in African states to win contracts for their cut–rate equipment and services.

According to a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Kenya released Tuesday by WikiLeaks, Chinese influence over the local government may be “distorting important investment decisions” in the country, particularly in the telecoms sector.

The cable said Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei (NewsAlert) was awarded a contract with Kenya’s state–run telecoms company without undergoing the required bidding process and despite complaints about poor after–sales service.

While such gripes may not be easily overcome, Beijing’s swift response to the strife in Libya shows how it is ramping up protection of its citizens — although its options remain limited.

China began focusing more closely on consular protection over the past decade as the numbers of Chinese traveling abroad for work, study and tourism began to soar. The Foreign Ministry established a department dedicated to helping Chinese abroad, and diplomats are increasing their outreach to the expatriate community and contacts with local governments and international organizations, experts say.

“I think that Beijing is only beginning to fully realize the implications of complications of its exposure abroad” to local political instability, said Christopher Alden, a senior lecturer at the London School of Economics who has studied China–Africa relations.

Patrick Bond on Mugabe’s Repressive Neo-Colonial Regime in Zimbabwe

Will Zimbabwe again regress?

A mid-2011 election announced by Mugabe promises a return to outright violence and poll thievery.

“There was a ZANU-PF that we were part of, the liberation movement, and then there was Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, which is very different. Mugabe is essentially right wing, notwithstanding the anti-imperialist rhetoric.”

Patrick Bond, Bulawayo

November 12, 2010 –  If leaders of a small African country stand up with confidence to imperialist aggression, especially from the US and Britain, it would ordinarily strike any fair observer as extremely compelling. Especially when the nightmare of racist colonialism in that country is still be to exorcised, whites hold a disproportionate share of economic power and state’s rulers appear serious about changing those factors.

But that country needs a second glance. What may seem to some a progressive and brave government is upon closer examination a tyranny whose leader repeatedly acts against grassroots and shop-floor social solidarity, and notwithstanding rhetoric about land redistribution, is ultimately very hostile to its own society’s poor and working people, women, youth, elderly and ill.

“Progress in Zimbabwe” was the title of a four-day conference in Bulawayo last week, gathering mainly academics but also leading civil society strategists. It was organised by University of Johannesburg political economist David Moore and by Showers Mawowa of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) School of Development Studies and the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development.

Said Moore, “For many analysts, the end of progress is signified in the political projects of Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe African Nation Union-Patriotic Front [ZANU-PF] – not to mention the Government of National Unity.” It has been two years since South Africa’s then-president Thabo Mbeki negotiated dysfunctional power-sharing between Mugabe’s junta and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Continue reading

Chinese guns for Zimbabwe diamonds: Secret airstrip in diamond field

A secret airstrip is being built in a diamond field illegally seized by the Zimbabwean army 14 months ago which will enable clandestine weapons shipments.

[Having suffered at the hands of British settler colonialism and from various forms of neo-colonialism, the people of Zimbabwe now suffer from the brutal and corrupt Mugabe regime, propped up by Chinese imperialists paying for the plunder of “blood diamonds” with Chinese guns.  The Zimbabwean people’s continuing struggle for liberation faces daunting challenges.–Frontlines ed.]

Instead of saving Zimbabwe, the Blood Diamonds only enriched its ruling class

September 28, 2010
By Sam Gregory, Freepressers.com

MUTARE, ZIMBABWE — Grace Mugabe, wife of President Robert Mugabe, is one of the major beneficiaries of Zimbabwe’s controversial Marange diamonds.

Reports have confirmed that she holds a major stake in Mbada Diamonds — one of the companies mining in Manicaland province. Before the ensuing violence and corruption many dared to believe these diamonds would be a source of recovery for this downtrodden nation but, as this reporter found in Zimbabwe’s eastern borderlands, the diamonds many hoped would save their country are destroying it.

In 2006, when Zimbabwe was on its hands and knees, a shining opportunity presented itself — diamonds.

Such a rich deposit has seldom been seen throughout the history of mineral exploration and it came at just the right time for a nation in peril. Starvation was rife in rural areas, health care was extremely limited and hyper inflation was beginning to take its toll.

The diamonds were seen as a major opportunity and accordingly thousands moved to the Marange diamond fields — near Zimbabwe’s eastern border with Mozambique — in the hope of making their fortunes in the rush. Some were not so optimistic however.

As estimates of the value of diamonds in the mines grew so did the potential for conflict. Great wealth was up for grabs in a politically tense environment. Continue reading

Mamdani: Lessons from Zimbabwe

London Review of Books, December 4, 2008

Mahmood Mamdani

It is hard to think of a figure more reviled in the West than Robert Mugabe. Liberal and conservative commentators alike portray him as a brutal dictator, and blame him for Zimbabwe’s descent into hyperinflation and poverty. The seizure of white-owned farms by his black supporters has been depicted as a form of thuggery, and as a cause of the country’s declining production, as if these lands were doomed by black ownership. Sanctions have been imposed, and opposition groups funded with the explicit aim of unseating him.

There is no denying Mugabe’s authoritarianism, or his willingness to tolerate and even encourage the violent behaviour of his supporters. His policies have helped lay waste the country’s economy, though sanctions have played no small part, while his refusal to share power with the country’s growing opposition movement, much of it based in the trade unions, has led to a bitter impasse. This view of Zimbabwe’s crisis can be found everywhere, from the Economist and the Financial Times to the Guardian and the New Statesman, but it gives us little sense of how Mugabe has managed to survive. For he has ruled not only by coercion but by consent, and his land reform measures, however harsh, have won him considerable popularity, not just in Zimbabwe but throughout southern Africa. In any case, the preoccupation with his character does little to illuminate the socio-historical issues involved.

Many have compared Mugabe to Idi Amin and the land expropriation in Zimbabwe to the Asian expulsion in Uganda. The comparison isn’t entirely off the mark. I was one of the 70,000 people of South Asian descent booted out by Idi Amin in 1972; I returned to Uganda in 1979. My abiding recollection of my first few months back is that no one I met opposed Amin’s expulsion of ‘Asians’. Most merely said: ‘It was bad the way he did it.’ The same is likely to be said of the land transfers in Zimbabwe.

What distinguishes Mugabe and Amin from other authoritarian rulers is not their demagoguery but the fact that they projected themselves as champions of mass justice and successfully rallied those to whom justice had been denied by the colonial system. Not surprisingly, the justice dispensed by these demagogues mirrored the racialised injustice of the colonial system. In 1979 I began to realise that whatever they made of Amin’s brutality, the Ugandan people experienced the Asian expulsion of 1972 – and not the formal handover in 1962 – as the dawn of true independence. The people of Zimbabwe are likely to remember 2000-3 as the end of the settler colonial era. Any assessment of contemporary Zimbabwe needs to begin with this sobering fact.

Though widespread grievance over the theft of land – a process begun in 1889 and completed in the 1950s – fuelled the guerrilla struggle against the regime of Ian Smith, whose Rhodesian Front opposed black majority rule, the matter was never properly addressed when Britain came back into the picture to effect a constitutional transition to independence under majority rule. Southern Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980, but the social realities of the newly independent state remained embedded in an earlier historical period: some six thousand white farmers owned 15.5 million hectares of prime land, 39 per cent of the land in the country, while about 4.5 million farmers (a million households) in ‘communal areas’ were left to subsist on 16.4 million hectares of the most arid land, to which they’d been removed or confined by a century of colonial rule. In the middle were 8500 small-scale black farmers on about 1.4 million hectares of land. Continue reading