Zanu PF got a lot of military, diplomatic and financial support from China throughout our war of independence; there is no doubt that the nation but Zanu PF in particular owns the Chinese a huge debt of gratitude. A debt the nation has been paying for the last 36 years; it is no secret that China has enjoyed a favoured nation status in its economic dealings with Zimbabwe. When it comes to corrupt deals such as supply of weapons to oppress the masses or the on-going wholesale plundering of the nation’s diamonds in Marange and Chiadzwa President Mugabe knew he could count on the Chinese as the most reliable partners in crime.
As a freedom fighter, I was aware of the military help Zanla was getting from China; I was aware that China was doing this to get one up on their greatest ideological rivalries but most important for mercenary reasons of exploiting independent Zimbabwe. I was not just me amongst the freedom fighters who was aware of these things but many other freedom fighters too were aware of these realities.
Many of freedom fighters knew that Russia demanded the exclusive fishing rights in Mozambique waters from Frelimo government as one of the prices for Russia giving military assistants to Felimo freedom fighters. Some of us saw the Russian fishing fleet for ourselves where locals were forbidden to fish and saw the processed fish labelled “Country of origin: USSR!”
Due to the secretive way both President Mugabe has conducted the nation’s affairs with China it would not have been obvious to many ordinary Zimbabweans that Zimbabwe too was paying back to China in unfavourable deals. What any politically attentive Zimbabwean could not have missed however is China’s very active interest in making sure Zanu PF remain in power at all cost.
President Mugabe and his Zanu PF cronies’ greed for absolute power and wealth was insatiable, they were willingness to do anything, absolutely anything, to retain power including denying their own people their freedoms, the right to free vote and even the right to life and, of great interest to the Chinese, pay any economic price to anyone willing to help them secure power.
The Chinese leaders had no qualms about helping anyone deny the ordinary people the vote or kill. After all as Communist Party of China (CPC), the country’s sole governing party since 1949, leaders they too owed their political power to denying their own Chinese people the same freedoms and rights. Millions of Chinese have lost their lives on the altar of keeping the CPC in power and, no doubt millions more will continue to suffer and die as long as CPC remain in power. So the Chinese have helped Zanu PF get into power with arms before independence and since independence in more subtle ways such as training the CIO and assisting in vote rigging. In return President Mugabe has granted China special economic favours.
President Mugabe has found the Chinese’s secretive way of doing business much to his liking allowing corruption to grow to what it is today where $15 billion is looted and no one in the regime is alarmed or care.
President Mugabe has looked to China for big-brother protection especially at international forums such as the United Nations. China political muscle as one of the five UN permanent members and economic muscle, it is now the second biggest economy in the world, has made Mugabe so arrogant he has regularly publicly denounce Western leaders confident China will never allow them to punish him.
Indeed it was China who stepped in when the West stopped funding the Zimbabwe government in 2000 for failure to service its already mounting foreign debts. President Mugabe like all big spenders was spending borrowed money but not paying it back. Mugabe turned to China in his “Look East!” policy.
In the 2013 elections President Mugabe was able to successful rig the national elections largely because MDC had failed to implement the democratic reforms designed to stop vote rigging and also because he had billions of dollars looked from Marange diamonds to bankroll the very expensive vote rigging scheme.
However Zimbabwe’s economy was in trouble after decades of gross mismanagement and rampant corruption and President Mugabe hoped to “rig” economic recovery by overwhelming the wastefulness due to mismanagement and corruption by spending an absolute fortune of the economy. He did not have the money to finance his ZimAsset recovery plan. He thought he would win back the West’s finance institutions like IMF and WB and get them to bankroll his plan. They refused!
He had no choice but to turn back to his Chinese friends, they must have fallen off their chair when they saw his $27 billion ZimAsset budget; nearly three times the country’s $10 billion debt which the country was failing to pay back! It is not surprising that the Chinese too refused to bankroll his plan.
With no hope of foreign financial assistance, Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown has spiralled out of control; unemployment has soared to 90% plus, corruption is now so rampant President Mugabe admitted $15 billion was looted and yet no one has ever been arrested, etc. It is clear that the economic situation is simply socially and politically unsustainable; the first thing to go has to be this Zanu PF government since it has clearly failed to deliver economic recovery.
There have been numerous street protests already demanding regime change and there will be more violent street protests and worse until there is regime change or economic recovery!
Regime change is the one thing President Mugabe and his Zanu PF cronies have vowed to resist at all cost but the economic meltdown and street protests have now pushed that cost beyond the regime’s reach. Whilst President Mugabe has managed to bribe, cheat, bamboozle, intimidate, harass, rig elections and even kill his political opponents and critics (with the direct or indirect help of his Chinese friends) to stay in power; he has failed to do the same with the economy (here the Chinese’s corrupt tendencies have only helped to accelerate Zimbabwe’s economic collapse).
Although the Chinese has refused to bankroll ZimAsset they are nonetheless saying they will assist Zanu PF financially to stop the now certainty of Zanu PF being forced out of power if there is no meaningful economic recovery on condition that President Mugabe steps down in three months.
“In what marks the end of President Robert Mugabe’s over thirty years reign in power, China has reportedly told the veteran leader in black and white, to now pave way for Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, to takeover the presidency within the coming three months,” reported Spotlight Zimbabwe.
“Beijing according to an Asian diplomat in Harare, who spoke to this publication in a confidential telephone interview this week, has made it clear that it can only unlock much needed financial funding for the dislocating economy, if Mugabe steps aside for his VP, in a bid to maintain continuity of her foreign policy on Zimbabwe, while safe guarding it’s cross-section of economic interests in the country.”
China has prop up the incompetent, corrupt and tyrannical Zanu PF regime since 2000 when the regime could not borrow any more money on the open market because it continued to profit from its dodgy business dealings in Zimbabwe. As the demands from the wasteful Zanu PF regime has continue to soar China too has found the increasing demands unsustainable.
The only positive thing about Zimbabwe’s present economic meltdown is that it has the economic hardships have galvanized the people of Zimbabwe to demand regime change.
As far as China is concerned the only positive thing about Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown is that it has created a new opportunity for China to Zimbabwe’s leaders into signing a new deal with China. China is hoping the increasing reality of regime change will finally force President Mugabe to accept their offer of him handing over power to their man, VP Emmerson Mnangagwa, as his successor rather than face the consequences of himself and Zanu PF being forced out of office.
The Chinese will spend billions of dollars propping up a Mnangagwa regime confident they will recover whatever they spend a hundred fold as happened with all the money they spend clothing, training and arming Zanla forces before independence.
There is no such thing as a free-lunch certainly not with the Chinese; China’s military help before independence has been like opium – short term gains with damaging long term consequences. China’s offer to bail out the Zimbabwe economy if Mugabe steps down is yet another opium gift with the same short term gain and long term addictive consequences being offered at the time when the nation is at the brink to ending China’s obnoxious influence in Zimbabwe’s affairs!