CIVIL SOCIETY STATEMENT ON CHINESE INVESTMENTS IN ZIMBABWE: COMMUNITIES’ SENTIMENTS SHOULD BE RESPECTED
We, the Zimbabwe Civil Society groups, united in our common objective of defending our communities and national heritage against investment projects that disempower and impoverish our people, seek to register our deep concern with the behaviour of Chinese business operations in Zimbabwe.
Our joint statement is not meant to defame China or trigger xenophobic resentment towards Chinese nationals in Zimbabwe. On the contrary, we seek fair and mutually beneficial relations between the two countries.
We have however noted with deep concern the threats of displacements and mining projects in ecologically sensitive places around the country without any due regard for the concerns of the local people.
Zimbabwe is a country endowed with vast natural resources in the minerals, flora and fauna categories. These resources have the potential to reduce poverty, improve human security and help achieve President Mnangagwa’s target of an upper-middle-income economy by 2030 if managed properly.
Sadly, the abundance of natural resources has become the major cause for poverty, inequality, human rights abuses, environmental crimes and transnational organized crime that are prejudicing the country of billions of dollars annually and this has been going on for decades.
Regarding the growing resentment towards Chinese investments in Zimbabwe, it is important to highlight that for the past 15 or so years, China has been the dominant player in Zimbabwe’s minerals sector, which saw Chinese small scale and large-scale miners getting deep into rural communities to start mining operations.
Some of these mining operations have left deep scars in the affected communities. For instance, in Marange, Anjin operated between 2011 and 2016 and was accused by the then Finance Minister of not paying anything to treasury despite the company boasting of being the largest diamond mine in the world by volume of production.
The company made several promises to the families it displaced to Arda Transau and all the promises were broken. Many former workers were arbitrarily dismissed and are still owed to this day.
The Marange community recently (Nov. 2021) held a protest against Anjin resulting in 29 of them, including the Headman being arrested.
In Mutare, there was a recent outcry after a Chinese company, Freestone Mines, started ground preparation for quarrying at Dangamvura mountain without an environmental impact assessment.
The Ministry of Mines, Mutare City Council and Freestone itself all confirmed that an environmental impact assessment was a prerequisite requirement but had not been carried out. The local traditional leadership was not consulted either.
Dangamvura Mountain is an ecologically sensitive site that is situated in Mutare’s green zone and very close to educational institutions and residential areas.
There are many cases across the country where the Chinese investors have been in a standoff with local communities.
The cases include the desecration of shrines and graves in Mudzi black granite mines and Dinde coal explorations in Hwange.
Local communities have come to realise (without any external influence) the losses they are incurring at the hands of the Chinese companies operating in their localities.
It is important to note that Zimbabweans are so learned to be able to distinguish exploitative, destructive development from progressive development without having to be influenced by anyone.
The primary objective of attracting investors to Zimbabwe is to ensure the Zimbabwean people benefit from their natural resource endowment.
True investors leave communities in a better state than they found them in. They build infrastructure which the community will continue to use even long after the investors have left.
We appreciate the positive developments done by other mining companies in Zimbabwe whose investments have been behind the establishment of towns like Bindura, Hwange, Shurugwi and Zvishavane.
There are companies like Zimplats which have massively invested in educational, health and road infrastructure for the host communities.
They have built standard residential areas which offer comfortable housing for their staff and families. We are yet to see such investments coming from investors from China, leaving us to question who exactly is benefiting from the Chinese investments.
We expect the Zimbabwe government and the media to engage China from the vantage point of advancing Zimbabwe’s national interest and promoting and protecting the dignity of the Zimbabwean people against corporate injustice and human rights abuses.
We call on the Government of Zimbabwe to openly engage affected communities through public hearings to understand the sentiments of the citizens regarding human rights, environmental and social impacts of Chinese investments in those communities. It is essential to listen to the real people in the affected communities.
The Chinese Ambassador should find time to tour the Chinese operations to observe the working conditions of the employees.
The Chinese investors in Zimbabwe should be accountable to local communities and open to public scrutiny, starting with their contracts, their taxes and beneficial ownership
Law enforcement, EMA, rural district councils and Chiefs should conduct their mandate of protecting natural resources and local people without intimidation or fear of victimisation by those siding with the investors.
We are proud Zimbabweans, masters of our own destiny. We neither pander to the West nor to the East. We place it on China that how would they react if an African start blasting the Great wall, without a license, and uses Sino-Afro ties as a defence?
If China respects and loves Africa as it purports, then the primary sign is to place ordinary citizens at the centre of development.
ORGANIZATIONS THAT ENDORSE THE STATEMENT
- Bocha Diamond Community Trust
- Centre for Natural Resource Governance
- Community Media and Local Development Initiative
- Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
- Green Governance Africa Trust
- Godlwayo Community Development Trust
- Gweru East Ratepayers Union for Development
- Manica Youth Assembly
- Masvingo Centre for Research and Development
- Masvingo Residents Trust
- Masvingo United Residents and Ratepayers Alliance
- Mission To Live Trust
- Mutasa Youth Forum
- Midlands Natural Resources Agenda
- Mutare Informal Traders Association
- Mutoko Shine Faith-Based Trust
- Peacebuilding and Capacity Development Foundation
- The Eastern Caucus (TECa) Manica
- Shangano Arts Trust
- United Mutare Residents and Ratepayers Association
- Young Entrepreneurs Trust Zimbabwe
- Zivai Community Empowerment Trust (ZiCET)
- Zimbabwe Diamonds and Allied Workers Union
- Zimbabwe Democracy Institute
- Zimbabwe Organisation of Youths in Politics
- Zimbabwe Peace Project
- Commercial Federation of Manicaland Trust
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