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Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: Zimbabwe affirms its Zhing – zhong status….. as the country’s leaders revel in a Chinese – built Parliament

Zimbabwe has emphatically affirmed its Zhing-Zhong status as Beijing’s outpost (or colony) when her new Parliament building in Mt Hampden constructed as a “donation” by the Chinese government hosted two epic events in the last 48 hours.

The first was the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and the official opening of the fifth session of the ninth Parliament by Mr Mnangagwa on Wednesday while the second event was yesterday’s presentation of the 2023 national budget statement at the same auspicious venue.

In the realm of international affairs, a Parliament is the theatre and embodiment of national sovereignty where elected representatives transact the citizens’ affairs.

A Parliament is the sole cradle of a people’s sovereign power and to have a country’s Parliament building constructed by a foreign country is a shameful development that must leave all of us wallowing in unbridled collective shame.

Coming on the back of a similar “donation” when the Chinese government constructed the African Union’s plush headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2012, the much-vaunted mantra of the principle of sovereignty by the leaders of both Africa and Zimbabwe becomes a trite and embarrassing rallying cry. For such grand symbols of sovereignty cannot be “donated ” by foreigners.

Though it it is fast losing its lustre, sovereignty as a concept is supreme. Sovereignty generally refers to the independence and autonomy of modern States. Sovereignty presumes that countries have supreme power in and over their own jurisdictions.

By having our sovereign continental headquarters and our sovereign Parliament constructed by a foreign country, we have hit a new low on the index of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. It’s simply unmitigated collective shame.

Just how does a man claim sole and sovereign authority at his home when both his bedroom and the mating reed-mat were gifts from the man next-door? Or, more appropriately, how does a man boast of his presumed matrimonial sovereignty when his wife’s underclothes were bought by the dip attendant (mudhhibhisi ) from a faraway community?

In traditional Shona culture, it is akin to the abomination of receiving a donation from the neighbouur of their family’s cultural artefacts. Kuronzerwa kana kukwereteswa tsvimbo nemachira emidzimu yemumwe musha !

A Zhing – Zhong nation

The Chinese have been touted as our all-weather friends and it is true they stridently supported the country’s liberation war effort. But it is also true that they are all over the sectors and all over the country scouring and spiriting away our wealth, leaving no-one and no place behind.

Chinese projects in Zimbabwe include but were not limited to the Matabeleland Zambezi Water project, the Kunzwi dam project, the New Parliament building, the Hwange 7 and 8 rehabilitation project, the Robert Mugabe International Airport, the Kariba South project as well as diamond mining in Chiadzwa where Chinese companies such as Anjin were heavily involved. It was Anjin that built the Golden Peacock Valley Hotel in Mutare.

Across the vast labyrinth of this country, Chinese companies are heavily involved in various mining activities in the country’s extractive sector. The Chinese have been using what is called the Angola model which involves swopping a country’s mineral wealth with huge infrastructure projects.

True, this model has benefited countries to a certain extent but it has also led to the spiriting away of the respective countries’ vast mineral wealth.

Zimbabwe’s relations with China stretch back to the Ming and Qing dynasty when the Chinese established ties with the Munhumutapa empire based on trade and cultural exchanges over 600 years ago. The relations strengthened during the liberation struggle when China offered unconditional support to our freedom fighters. The relations went to a higher level with the “Look East’ policy was adopted by government in 2003 following the souring of relations with the West and Zimbabwe’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth.

Indeed, the Chinese have been our all-weather friends but in modern international relations, we must strive to be friends to everyone, the only cardinal being that every relationship and every bilateral business deal with a foreign country must primarily benefit this country and its citizens. As Kwame Nkrumah once said: ” We look neither East nor West . We look forward .”

Indeed, we have truly become a Zhing-Zhong nation and our donor-funded Parliament bankrolled by the Chinese has not only affirmed that status but has also massively eroded our claim to sovereignty. For a country’s Parliament is the true repository of a nation’s sovereignty and its construction cannot be outsourced to a foreign power like China, one of the UN’ security council’s five permanent members that wields enormous geopolitical power.

Colonialism is colonialism and it must be resisted whether it’s by the British, by the Americans, by the Chinese or by any other country. We run the very serious risk of being perceived as a Chinese colony, assuming we are not!

The Chinese themselves have not helped matters with their record not only in Zimbabwe but across Africa. Their record includes unfair labour practices, corruption, product dumping, counterfeiting, resource exploitation, tax evasion and foreign currency externalisation. In 2014, Chinese companies Anjin Investments and Jinan were caught in a storm over allegations of diamond smuggling.

The truth is that the new Parliament building in Mt Hampden, just like the AU headquarters, not only confirms our Zhing-Zhong credentials but also seriously erodes our sovereignty as a nation.

Moreover, we are not sure whether the Chinese have not bugged our Parliament which they have “donated’ to us, just as they reportedly did with the AU headquarters.

The 20-storey AU was headquarters in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia, was constructed as a “donation” from China and the construction work was completed in 2012. The Chinese also built the entire computer network, which they reportedly bugged. The bugging was not detected until January 2017, when it was noted that all the data at our continental headquarters was being copied to servers in Shanghai.

The Chinese denied the bugging but these are the same guys who have just “donated” a new Parliament building to us. My own conclusion is that the whole mess and the alleged donation of a Parliament building is a huge breach of our sovereignty as a nation. And what must humiliate us even more is that we were even complicit in that breach!

Chinese buses, Chinese mining firms, Chinese construction companies, a Chinese built national airport, a Chinese-built National Sports Stadium and now a Chinese-built Parliament. Welcome to Zimbabwe, a Zhing-Zhonation!

Or is it Djimbabwe?

Conclusion

The new Parliament built as a donation by the Chinese, on top of an AU headquarters built by the same Chinese, represents a serious infringement of our sovereignty ss a country and as a continent.

I have no problem with the Chinese. We only need to be smart and to work in the best interest of Zimbabwe by sculpting mutually beneficial partnerships that do not prejudice this country and its people.

Beyond the mere rhetoric of the “Look East” slogan, what is needed is a clear policy and a clear strategy in terms of Sino-Zimbabwe relations. Without a clear strategy, Chinese investments may bring perceptions of geopolitical influence or even colonialism. It may also brimg unwarranted foreign debt to Zimbabwe as has happened in other parts of Africa such as Djibouti, Zambia and Kenya.

For me the lasting sight of the ultimate breach of our sovereignty will always be the image of Emmerson Mnangagwa opening the fifth session of the ninth Parliament in a “donated” Chinese built Parliament building He was clad what looked like an Italian-tailored designer suit most probably with wads of United States dollars in his pockets. I can bet there was a huge tinge of Russian vodka in his breadth.

There was nothing Zimbabwean around him, except the starving MPs, most of whom had probably slept in their cars as we are hearing Parliament has carved for itself quite a record in the hotels in Harare.

Cry, the beloved country.

Luke Tamborinyoka, a citizen from Domboshava, is a journalist and change champion in the Citizens Coalition for Change ( CCC ). You can interact with him on his Facebook page or on the twitter handle @ luke_tambo.

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