Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Case of the Visionary Zimbabwe Look East Policy

By Bernard Bwoni

China owns US$1.317 trillion of the US Government’s Treasury bonds and you never hear anyone commenting that China is colonising the USA? In the case of Zimbabwe you often hear headlines such as ‘Zimbabwe Government ‘sells out’ to China or ‘Zimbabwe mortgaging Zimbabwe’s future to China’. His Excellency President Mugabe is currently in China to negotiate a package to fund the country’s ZIMASSET blue-print and other infrastructural development projects. 

Just as with the relationship between China and the US, President Mugabe’s trip is purely a business and the key is mutually beneficial engagement. The country is negotiating for a US$4 billion rescue package to steady the economy and start implementing major infrastructure developments. The Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Project Delivery System is a way to finance big projects especially infrastructure projects through public-private partnerships where China will receive a concession from the government to construct big infrastructure development projects in Zimbabwe. This enables China to recover her billions of investment in the project and at the end of the concession period the end project provides that the infrastructure belongs to Zimbabwe and China has her investment back. 

Visionary Leader: President Mugabe was described as
 a 'renowned leader of the African national liberation movement'
and 'an old friend of the Chinese people' during the visit

China will implement the infrastructure projects in the ‘Build’ phase, will get its investment during the agreed period of ‘Operate’ and at the end of the ‘Operate’ phase the project will ‘Transfer’ to the Government of Zimbabwe. This is a mutually beneficial agreement where Zimbabwe will acquire power plants, major highways, huge solar projects, railways, airports, water supply facilities and China will also benefit from her investment and recover the costs of funding the projects. The Chinese will fund new and existing capital projects under the BOT basis and this will ensure that the country pays for the projects over a long period. This allows for tangible development and the tax burden will not fall on the already struggling people of Zimbabwe. 

Some sceptics have expressed concern that the country is planning to sideline the State Procurement Board and award government infrastructure projects to Chinese state companies without going to tender. But these are government to government initiatives to fund national projects there is no need for them to go through tender. There are many countries world over using or have used BOT initiatives to fund huge infrastructure projects and these include the Saudis with their oil, Abu Dhabi, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand and the Channel Tunnel was constructed on the backdrop of a BOT with a 60 year concession period. So when you hear such statements as President Mugabe has gone to China to mortgage the country and that this is a ‘so-called new form of colonialism’ but the point remains that it is just a BOT, purely a commercial deal that is not only unique to Zimbabwe. 

A guard of honor forms before a welcome ceremony for President Mugabe;
China’s engagement with Africa has in fact resulted in real and concrete productive assets such as infrastructural development and that engagement with the Chinese is about productivity, economic transformation and real development and not soft surface issues such as a proliferation of NGOs which foster more of dependence as opposed to innovation and self-sustenance. The engagement with China is seems genuinely based on mutual respect and mutually beneficial outcomes. There is concrete, visible and tangible evidence of the roads and other infrastructure that China is building in Africa whereas engagement with traditional development ‘partners’ continues to witness conflict after conflict in any area of resource-abundance.

The leaders oversaw the signing of a number of agreements,
 including on economic, trade and tourism cooperation
and concessional loans

All eyes seem to be looking to the East side of the continent and final destination China. The vision of one extraordinary African, HE President Mugabe was to look east when all other avenues were locked shut by the country’s traditional engagement partners who always seem to prosper at the misery and suffering of others. Now this vision is equally shared by the same traditional engagement partners and as President Mugabe begins his week-long visit to China at the invitation of Mr Xi Jinping we explore how this look east is not ‘a new form of colonisation of Africa by China’ as some in Zimbabwe and in the western media have made us to believe.

It is only just over six months ago that the British Prime Minister Mr Cameron, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Osborne and Mayor of London Boris Johnson all led individual high powered business and trade delegations to China. That went to pass without anyone proclaiming that Britain was being colonised by China. It is what it is, purely a business deal. The US and Europe have been tripping over each other seeking economic lifelines from the same Chinese they claim are on a ‘new form of colonising Africa’.

It was an honour watching our President being welcomed with such honour from our honourable friends from China. He was welcomed with a full honour guard outside the Great Hall of the People where he received a 21-gun salute. That is the nature of the relationship with our engagement partners from the east, mutual respect. You compare that with our traditional engagement partners who put conditionality after conditionality to the engagement and that was evidenced in the recent EU-Africa Summit and US-Africa Summit. The public ridicule to a Head of State and all the spanners in the works are an indication of engagement that is not based on mutual respect. Zimbabwe is going to triumph and that is thanks to the vision from the country’s look east policy.

Bernard Bwoni is a member of the ZANU PF UK Chapter and is the Secretary General of the SW England Branch

Achilles Heel of Zimbabwe Politics

By Bernard Bwoni

The Achilles heel of Zimbabwe politics is the lack of an authentic, relevant and effective opposition. Instead of a policy-orientated response to the current economic challenges facing the country, what we get from the likes of Job Sikhala is the ‘overthrow’ of a democratically elected government in Zimbabwe. In any other part of the world, calling for the ‘overthrow’ of a democratically elected government is at best criminal and at worst treasonous.

 It would be a different matter if one focuses on adjusting their barebones policies and hope for an electoral victory against the ruling party. But calling for the overthrow of government is not only sloppy and political immaturity. As if that was not enough Tsvangirai came up with his own hastily prepared statement saying "We are drawing a line in the sand and we shall pressurise and mobilise the people….we are going to mobilise. The form and content is left to the MDC to plan and execute," Both Tsvangirai and Sikhala are not putting on the table the alternative policy strategies to any of the reasons they are proposing these calls for the ‘overthrow’ of an elected government and calls for mass action. 

Now the question to pose to Tsvangirai is where are your shadow policies to the country’s economic challenges? A sober opposition acts as trouble-shooters and not mere meddling spectators or rubble-rousers. He went on to say "Let Mugabe be warned that if we cannot live as free men and women in our country of birth, we will rather die as free people," This is a contradictory statement from these two men who are calling for the ‘overthrow’ of a government freely and yet they make confused and confusing claims that their freedoms are being violated. Tsvangirai and Sikhala are being very dishonest and irresponsible with their calls for these mass demonstrations which have the potential of leading to violence. 

These two men need reminding that such calls for such unconstitutional means of removing an elected government will not address the economic challenges facing the country. Calling for any action with the potential to lead to chaos and unnecessarily endangering lives is irresponsible leadership, an illness of those with misguided and misplaced loyalties to push champion the interests and agendas of a power-hungry opposition which fronts the agendas of even more powerful external stakeholders. 

There is no painless side to violence, there is no excuse for acts of violence; there is no better or worse violence and all perpetrators walk the same line in the eyes of the recipients of the vile acts. Violence in politics must never be condoned or downplayed as there are innocent victims and misguided perpetrators. A genuine opposition should be busy challenging the ruling party on matters of policy and not trying to instigate unrest in the country. How is a walk in the streets going to address the country’s economic challenges? The call from these two bares no attempt at restructuring the economy but to cause disruption to the country and potentially harm to others.

It is the resilient Zimbabwean spirit that has sustained this country through this very difficult period and not the ill-advised calls for violence or mass action from an irresponsible opposition. It is this beautiful Zimbabwean spirit that is going to address the country’s economic difficulties and not the thoughtless calls from opposition leaders who are seeking relevance through reckless means. Zimbabweans are one and together are going to pull through. The admission is that the country is facing economic challenges but is the opposition engineered violence the solution the challenges?

The country deserves a genuine opposition built on genuine and deep-rooted values. Any citizen would welcome a strong opposition to the ruling party, an opposition that can carry forward the country’s vision and direction and not parade it carelessly to the highest bidder for political celebrity status. An opposition that can define and direct the country’s vision forwards as opposed to na├»ve fascination with aiding and abetting structures and systems which will never empower the people of Zimbabwe. An opposition that engross itself in calling for the ‘overthrow’ of an elected government is structurally and strategically flawed. A people-centred opposition must go beyond empty proclamations and crafty schemes to cause unrest as an alternative and backdoor to the corridors of power in Zimbabwe. Surely if a mere substance-free call for the ‘overthrow’ of President Mugabe is all it takes to tread the corridors of Zimbabwean power then State House would be heaving with Presidents of all colours and creeds right now.

The fact of the matter is that Zimbabwe is not going to have that sort of opposition in the foreseeable future. It takes time and commitment to crotchet the principles, the vision and values that define a country. It takes time and a genuine desire to build a party which embodies, defines, anchors, binds and shapes the nation as a whole. It takes more than following neo-packaged orders from ashore to build a party which offers something tangible to benefit present and pass onto future generations. Any citizen would want an opposition that offers the country reassurances rather than seek to disrupt lives again. These ill-thought out calls from the opposition have not been associated with better outcomes and fortunes where such actions have been encouraged, again by external players with own vested interests. 

You look at Libya and Egypt today and it is not only disappointing but distressing to watch. The reckless calls for violence and these mass demonstrations will not address our current challenges. The calls from the opposition are careless and ill-advised. The opposition in Zimbabwe does not offer any reassurances that national direction will remain unaltered, the defining foundations of Zimbabwe will remain entrenched and that the nucleus of this country’s vision will remain guarded should they enter into power by some miracle. 

Zimbabwean opposition politics is in an ideological grey area and vacant space, exist­ing but non-existent, totally unconvincing; bend over backwards and forwards to the whims and commands of stakeholders with agendas that will never in a million years upgrade the lives of the people of Zimbabwe. The people of Zimbabwe only want solutions, not social gatherings to massage Tsvangirai’s politically and personally wounded ego.


Bernard Bwoni is a member of the ZANU PF UK Chapter and Secretary General of the South West England Branch