Zimbabwe was colonized through a ‘mega deal’, and its happening again
When people talk of colonization, there are those with the misguided notion that this only occurs via military conquest – usually, by a more powerful nation over a far weaker one.
Yet, this could not be further from the truth.
Let us not forget that there have been many forms under which several nations have come under the control of others – most notably, through what appeared very ‘innocent’ means.
In fact, some of these were in the shape of what, on the surface, seemed like honest ‘mega deals’ – as witnessed from the 16th century, when the Portuguese began entering into trade agreements with the Mutapa State in the north of what we today call Zimbabwe – in which, gold, silver, ivory and other products were traded.
For those who studied history, we all know how that eventually deteriorated into the Portuguese practically taking charge of the affairs of the Mutapa State – leading to direct interference in succession disputes, taking sides in (or even fanning) civil conflicts, and subsequently imposing their own puppet Mwenemutapa, such as Negomo Chisamharu, Gatsi Rusere and Mavhura Mhande – who did the bidding of the Europeans, and primary served their interests.
This is attributed to have been one of the major factors resulting in the demise of this once mighty empire – as well as the breaking away of Changamire Dombo – who established the powerful Rozvi State.
This was not the end of it in our country’s history – as witnessed in the 19th century with the occupation by the British, through Cecil John Rhodes’ BSAC (British South African Company).
Again, the Rudd Concession signed on 30 October 1888 by King Lobengula and Charles Dunnell Rudd, Rochfort James Maguire and Francis Thompson was seen as a ‘mega trade deal’ – which was touted as ‘win-win’ and beneficial to both sides.
As the saying goes, ‘the rest is history’!
What was most outstanding about the terms of this alleged ‘win-win’ mega deal was that only the king was to benefit – at the expense of the nation and ordinary citizens.
Only the king and his heirs and successors were to receive ‘the sum of one hundred pound sterling (£100) at the first day of every lunar month, and further to the delivery at the Royal Kraal, one thousand Martini-Henry breech-loading rifles, together with one hundred thousand rounds of suitable ball cartridges, in addition to a ‘steamboat with guns’ to be stationed on the Zambezi River.
In exchange of these few weapons of war and little cash, the king granted the BSAC, ‘their heirs, representatives, and assigns, jointly and severally, the complete and exclusive charge over all metals and minerals situated and contained in my kingdom, principalities, and dominions, together with the full power to do all things that they may deem necessary to win and procure the same’.
In so doing, the land between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers was effectively ‘sold’ and colonized through a ‘mega trade and investment deal’!
No shots were fired!
There was no military invasion!
Only a good eight years later – when the full realization of what has really transpired had finally hit home, was there some bloodshed – after uprisings, which were to be popularly referred to as the ‘First Chimurenga’, between 1896 and 1900.
As such, the facts on the ground are very clear and unequivocal – colonization of a country does not necessarily take place through a violent conquest – but, may actually be by means of seemingly innocent ‘mega trade and investment deals’.
This is what we still witness in Zimbabwe today.
Surely, what can anyone say about all these supposed ‘mega trade and investment deals’ being entered into by the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa regime with the Chinese, Russians and Belarusians?
Who is truly benefiting from this so-called ‘investment’ – when the Chinese are allowed to do ‘whatever they may deem necessary to procure’ our metals and minerals, whilst poor ordinary Zimbabweans are forced off their ancestral lands – with hardly any discernable enrichment for local communities, who are, instead, moved to undeveloped areas, lacking even the bare basics?
Can the people of Marange, Hwange, Binga, and many others, honestly claim that they are the real winners with the coming in of Chinese mining companies that are permitted to desecrate their heritage sites and forebearers’ graves with reckless impunity – whilst they are left without anything to show for the abundant ‘metals and minerals’ they were blessed with in their area?
In the same vein, Chinese entities operating in Zimbabwe are reportedly notorious for violating workers’ rights, paying paltry wages, in addition to the scant regard for their safety – with none of these ever being held to account for their criminality.
Furthermore, just as what transpired with the Mutapa State, the Chinese are strongly suspected to have taken sides in Zimbabwe’s succession disputes – being behind the expertly staged November 2017 military coup d’état, that toppled dictator Robert Gabriel Mugabe (and, replaced by the more agreeable Mnangagwa) – who had apparently angered the Asian giants barely a year earlier, after accusing them of looting US$15 billion in diamond revenue, thereby forcing the closure of companies such as Anjin Investments, operating in Marange.
Added to this, Zimbabwe is sinking deep into a China debt trap, widely believed to be over US$2 billion – as much as the Mnangagwa administration is always reluctant to disclose the real amount – which effectively renders our country beholden to the Chinese.
The world has seen the horrible fate of other counties which had fallen into this same trap, subsequently losing their valuable assets – such as, Sri Lanka, who were forced to handed over the Hambantota Port to the Chinese in 2017, over a US$1.3 billion loan for its construction.
Currently, Zimbabwe is using Chinese loans to build the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport (US$153 million), Hwange Thermal Power Station expansion project (US$998 million), NetOne National Mobile Broadband project (US$199 million), Kariba South Hydro-Power project (US$390 million), amongst a long list.
Where does that leave our country – knowing fully well that we have a terrible history of not paying back loans – a fact evidenced with the recent visit by former Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano, and the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Akinwumi Adesina, for a crisis meeting on Zimbabwe’s ballooning debt to international lenders, reaching a staggering US$14 billion?
Are we not in grave danger of losing our assets, as did Sri Lanka – to a country, as China, whose checkered past reveals a cunning buccaneering pirate, which is not shy to overrun any who owes it?
How can anyone describe this?
Is this not a new from of colonialism?
Who then in Zimbabwe is benefiting?
Who benefits from over US$25 billion (the actual figure, based on experts) in our diamond revenue disappearing into thin air over the past 15 years – without ever being declared into our state coffers?
What about the US$100 million worth of our gold being smuggled out of Zimbabwe on a monthly basis?
Who in Zimbabwe is benefiting – since there are never any reports of the arrest, prosecution and conviction of anyone – especially, those aligned to power, including, some caught red-handed at our airports, who are released by our justice system on spurious declarations of a lack of evidence?
So, what is the difference with what we see today, and the goings on during the 16th century Portuguese, and 19th century British colonialism?
Are the Zimbabwe ruling class – as did puppet Mwenemutapa (as Negomo Chisamharu, Gatsi Rusere and Mavhura Mhande), or the ‘king and his heirs and successors’ – not the only ones smiling all the way to the bank in these ‘mega trade and investment deals’, whilst millions of ordinary Zimbabweans are pushed deeper into the abyss of economic hardships?
What about the Belarusians?
When ‘business deals’ for the supply of agricultural implements and the construction of various infrastructure are made with a dubious individual as Aleksandr Zingman’s AFTRADE DMCC – the same company that wanted to further drown our already cash-strapped local authorities, with scandalously over-priced fire tenders – costing US$464,296 each, yet they are around US$26,000 in Malaysia.
Each day, I am sure the political elite are receiving their figurative ‘one hundred pound sterling (£100), steamboats, and Martini-Henry breech-loading rifles’ – as they watch our natural resources being looted by their so-called ‘all weather friends’.
Ironically, from my understanding of history – even King Lobengula believed the likes of Rhodes, or at least his emissaries, were his ‘all weather friends’ – who would protect his kingdom from the threat of a Boer invasion (possibly explaining all the sophisticated weaponry in the deal), as well as help keep at bay other concession seekers, such as Edward Maund, Eduard Lippert and Henry Renny-Tailyyour.
Today, the Chinese, Belarusians, and even Russians, are coming as Zimbabwe’s protectors from the West!
We need to wake up as the people of Zimbabwe!
Our country has been colonized before, and we should, by now, be quite capable of easily identifying the signs.
Those who seek to take over our nation will seldom come with guns blazing aboard menacing warships – but, will likely accomplish this task through what the ordinary population may perceive as honest ‘mega trade and investment deals’.
It is time we meticulously studied and scrutinized all these touted ‘business deals’ to see if our present day leaders are not doing a ‘Rudd Concession’ on us again.
However, based on what we have witnessed, in horror, so far – indeed, our country is being mortgaged once again, with the active participation of our leaders – as happened before in our history.
● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: [email protected]