By John Chimunhu
Now Daily Analysis
The lines between Whitehall and Munhumutapa Building, the offices of the Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, are again closed. No diplomatic shuffling, no high-profile British visits to give photo ops to the troubled dictator, no peace of mind after the purging of the party to give the despot’s wife powerful posts and a lot of money, which many say she spends rather recklessly.
There is no public trace of the hundreds of millions promised by both China and the West to bail out Zimbabwe. At the height of optimism after a new, but mostly defective, constitution was signed into law prior to a manipulated election in 2013, more than $3 billion was pledged to get this Southern African nation out of the doldrums. Not much has materialized, but the unkindest cut came from the Chinese, whose dithering has plunged the country’s energy, telecommunications, transport, water and sanitation sectors into chaos
Strangely, in his so-called State of the Nation Address (SONA) on August 25, President Robert Mugabe totally ignored the new constitution, in particular human rights. Many expected him to talk about the case of missing Occupy Africa Unity Square leader Itai Dzamara, but he did not.
It is important to point out that Mugabe’s so-called SONA was more of a Zanu PF wish list than a detailed look at the ‘state of the nation’ in the conventional sense of a normal democratic president telling his subjects how the republic is faring and what can actually be achieved to make the situation better. Instead, Mugabe keeps telling the people that the Chinese will solve the problem but the Chinese never come to help anyone except themselves. Some are calling them the new face of British imperialism but that is a topic for another time.
In a dictatorship like Zimbabwe, the people are kept on a diet of heavy doses of propaganda, threats and outright lies. In any case Mugabe refused to answer questions from MPs in the typical fashion of all autocratic rulers. The MPs were sure to ask him about the burning Dzamara question.
Mugabe could have been excused if he was not talking business. However, the fact that he devoted his entire 30-minute speech to business and foreign investment means he should have highlighted the issues that are impeding Zimbabwe’s access to capital. (The 91 year-old despot skipped many pages of the speech because his frail health would not allow him to stand and read for long, the result of the dictator’s 35-year stranglehold on power.)
Finding Dzamara should be item number one on Mugabe’s to-do list. It should be the priority of all Zimbabweans. The president talked about the Chinese giving the impoverished country loans. The Chinese have told Mugabe’s officials point blank that they should start looking to the West for substantial loans and investment funds.
China is looking to the West. It is trying to come to terms with its worst-ever stock market crash, in which investors have lost upwards of $2 trillion. Is it any wonder that the mega-deals signed with Mugabe are again being reviewed? Recently, Zimbabwe’s state media reported tellingly that a Chinese delegation was in the country to assess the ‘cost’ of the deals. The question is, what did Mugabe and Xi sign? How could they sign an economic agreement without knowing the cost? Or, could it be that Harare hyped up the ‘deals’ to make it look like something concrete was in the offing when nothing had been agreed.
The failure by Zimbabwe to meet the June 16 2015 digitalization deadline is a case in point. As it happened, Mugabe gave the contract to Chinese Red Army firm Huawei, who insisted on seeing the $150 million for the project before starting work. Apparently, the bankrupt Mugabe government could not provide this.
The secret to Chinese success is that they made friends with the rich West and went out of their way to make their policies attractive. The biggest VW factory in the world is now in Shanghai. China’s $4 trillion national treasure is banked in the US and managed by Americans. Despite disagreements over human rights, China is trying hard to maintain its status as the US’s most favoured nation.
In fact, contrary to the common misguided narrative by Mugabe and his Zanu PF party officials, China is no longer a communist country in the true sense. The leader of the Communist party is a Harvard-trained banker. The young men and women running the country are the so-called ‘Tiananmen Square generation’ that fled to Western universities after the infamous massacre and subsequent crackdown. They returned with a burning desire to change things.
“The present generation of Chinese are into doing business, not dishing out donations of guns to African liberation movements like what happened in the 1970s. Zimbabwe must sort out its politics and address human rights in order to get on with the West,” said a senior Chinese official on a visit to Harare, in a speech that was never published in the Mugabe-controlled media.
To cap it all, despite an evident deficiency of democracy, the Chinese system of changing the top leadership after every ten years is something that is alien to Zimbabwe, which is now trapped in a succession rut, with leaders who are nearly 100 years old but are refusing to step down.
European and American diplomats are adamant that the Dzamara case should be a ‘test case’ on human rights observance in Zimbabwe. Following the harassment of the French ambassador by Zimbabwean government officials after he made a ‘toast to Dzamara’ on French National Day, attitudes have hardened. The feeling now is that the screws of economic and diplomatic sanctions which had been loosened following adoption of the new (defective) constitution must again be tightened. How far the tightening will go depends on the actions of Harare. So far, the attitude by Mugabe and his gangsters is that the Dzamara issue is a minor, temporary irritation and it will go away. That is far from true. Having gotten away with the Matabeleland massacre of 70 000 people, the Operation Murambatsvina destruction of millions of homes and market shelters (a crime against humanity, according to the UN), and the 2008 political murders which kept the dictator in power after losing elections, the West is determined not to let Mugabe get away with the Dzamara case.
© Now Daily 2015. All Rights Reserved.
By John Chimunhu