As Zimbabwe celebrates 42 years of Independence it is a time for the nation to take stock of the achievements that we have made as a country and identify the areas where we need to correct.

For starters, the protracted war of liberation that our veterans, both dead and alive, waged against the settler regime of Ian Smith was about self-determination and full ownership of our resources endowed upon our motherland; the land and all that is in it, including minerals.

The struggle was about the freedom of indigenous persons of this beautiful land to self-rule and determine our course as a sovereign nation.

And indeed, at independence in 1980, Zimbabwe became a land of milk and honey, where people enjoyed the blood and sweat of those who sacrificed their lives and limbs to free the country from more than 100 years of colonial bondage.

Zimbabweans got the right to freely and voluntarily vote for leaders of their choice to steer the country to achieve its set objectives of Gutsaruzhinji  (a government for all)

The dawn of independence saw a marked improvement in the standard of living of our people, both in the cities and in the rural areas.

Citizens were afforded their right to education, with even the elderly being given a chance to at least acquire some basic education, through the popular “Night School” concept introduced soon after independence to allow those whose learning had been disrupted by the war to catch up.

Government has also introduced numerous programmes that have economically empowered locals, among them the indigenisation policy which gives indigenous Zimbabweans 51% shares in all companies investing in the country.

Schools were built and education was made accessible and affordable to all, and in no time Zimbabwe was boasting of the highest literacy rate in the region, if not in the whole of Africa.

Now Zimbabwe boasts of more than 15 universities, 10 Polytechnics, more than 15 teachers colleges and thousands of primary and secondary schools dotted around the country.

The country has also been able to establish several health institutions to ensure easy access to health facilities for all, with at least a major hospital in every province and hundreds of clinics and other health service centres.

The Agriculture sector in the country has generally performed well, with the country at one time being touted as the bread-basket of Africa.

The government expanded education access by building schools in marginalised areas and disadvantaged urban centres, accelerated the training of teachers, and provided teaching and learning materials to schools.

It also introduced double shifts to manage increased enrolment and hired temporary teachers to help with the teaching load, and low-cost teacher training schemes were introduced where only two terms of the four-year course were spent in college and the remaining two years were spent training in schools

The land reform programme, although it came later than expected, saw the majority blacks taking ownership of fertile land and contributing to the country’s food security and also contributing to the country’s GDP through commercial farming.

Zimbabwe is currently among the three biggest tobacco growing countries in the world, thanks to the various support programmes offered to the agriculture sector by the government.

The country’s mining sector has experienced exponential growth, with the industry set to become a US$12 billion dollar economy by 2023.

In terms of infrastructure, the country has made steady progress in assuring the country’s infrastructure is developed to meet regional and international standards.

The government has invested in the construction of dams, bridges, roads, telecommunications infrastructure which has helped spur the country’s economic development over the years.

The rural electrification programme is the most significant infrastructure development programme which was initiated in 2002 following the enactment of the Rural Electrification Fund Act (2002). The major thrust of the Rural Electrification Fund was to ensure that equitable distribution of resources in the electrification of the rural areas in Zimbabwe.

This has helped in enhanced penetration of ICT in the rural areas and other remote countries across the country.

The country has also seen the refurbishment and expansion of some of its airports and the building of a spacious new parliament building.

Government has also tried to make sure that there is housing for all, allowing cooperatives to come in and assist in the provision of affordable houses for the majority.

However, the biggest threat to the development of the country has been corruption, which has now gone to unprecedented levels where it has literally been institutionalised.

This has led to the undoing of the many achievements that the country had made as funds for the maintenance of infrastructure, procurement of necessities such as drugs for our hospitals and others have been diverted by some greedy individuals.

With the vast mineral resources that the country is endowed with, Zimbabwe could have done more in terms of development had it managed to stem the cancerous scourge of corruption?

Zim @42: Reflections on Zim-China relations

…Zimbabwe celebrates its National Day this week and its relations with China are among the highlights because of their unique and evolving nature.

When Zimbabwe attained Independence from Britain on April 18, 1980, China was the first country establish diplomatic relations with the newly-self-governing State.

This was a culmination of support that China had given to liberation fighters who had enlisted its help to fight British colonial rule.

China and Zimbabwe share the baneful history of colonialism and brutality with the former having suffered British imperialism and colonialism in the 19th Century.

As Zimbabwe looks back over the years, a number of important issues bear discussion on how the two countries have cooperated ever more closely in light of evolving issues, challenges as well as opportunities.

This is despite the seemingly vast differences between the two: one, a small African country that has in recent times faced a number of problems; and the other a giant on the cusp of global supremacy.

The liberation struggle

Zimbabwe’s liberation fighters received training and arms from China to help them wade off the Rhodesian army.

In September 1963, President Emerson Mnangagwa led the first five recruits from the Zimbabwe Africa National Union (ZAPU) who went to receive a six-month military science training in China, which was followed by a second group in 1965, which went for advanced training as instructors after first receiving basic training in Ghana in 1964.

The late Josiah Tongogara also led an 11 member group to the Nanjing Academy in Beijing where they trained in mass mobilization, strategy and tactics, returning to Tanzania later the same year.

That is where the then Commander of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) learnt the importance of mass mobilization, which helped in shaping future strategy for the liberation fighters.

 In Tanzania, where liberation fighters were being trained, eight Chinese instructors arrived at ZANLA’s training camp at Itumbi in southern Tanzania in January 1969, where one of the instructors, Comrade Li, who was an infantry expert, played an important role  in the evolution of the new strategy.

It was at Itumbi and other training camps where the recruits learnt the meaning of a people’s war, a people’s army, and the objectives of the war and the basic teachings of Chairman Mao on guerrilla warfare.

Today, the ideals learnt during the liberation struggle act as a guiding light on many issues that the ruling party – Zanu-PF, encounter.

Ordinary people, too, find lots of resonance in political education derived from China.

Economic cooperation

Archeological evidence points to a much longer commercial relationship between Zimbabwe and China, dating back to more than a thousand years ago.

There is strong archaeological evidence of Chinese products found at Great Zimbabwe and elsewhere, a sign of trade relations that existed long before the arrival of European explorers and settlers. Chinese goods such as ceramics, porcelain and glass were traded with Africa in exchange for gold and precious stones, cotton, fabric as well as agricultural produce.

Ever since, China’s policy on Africa has recognized the efforts made by African countries towards the progress of civilization through protracted struggles which saw them emancipating themselves from colonialism and brought freedom and economic independence.

The Asian country has committed to partner African countries in advancing economic development during the first part of the 21st century.

China has made significant contribution towards economic development in the country, becoming the country’s largest Foreign Direct Investor and trading partner, purchasing almost a third of the country’s total export (27, 80%).  The Chinese now dominate Zimbabwe’s construction industry.

Chinese investment has increased and trade volumes multiplied, climaxing in visit to Zimbabwe by the President Xi Jinping before the December 2009 FOCAC meeting.

Since independence in 1980, the Asian giant has worked on many infrastructure development project

China’s foreign policy of not interfering in internal affairs of sovereign countries has earned them the favour of Harare, with Zimbabwe being among the 53 countries that backed the Hong Kong national security law at the United Nations.

The Asian country is currently among  the biggest buyers of Zimbabwean tobacco, while the Zimbabwean government also purchases large amounts of military hardware from China, including a US$13 million radar system, six Hongdu JL-8 jet aircraft, twelve JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, and 100 military vehicles since June 2004.

Most of the equipment distributed under the Agricultural Mechanization Program was purchased from China.

In 2015, China accounted for the largest share of foreign direct investment into Zimbabwe by far (74%).

China has also invested heavily in the mining sector in Zimbabwe with several companies from the Asian country investing in lithium, diamond and gold mining among other minerals. Chinese firms now dominate Zimbabwe’s mining sector, an important step for investment.

Interestingly, mining equipment and technologies employed by small scale and artisinal miners,largely come from China.

In agriculture, China is the biggest buyer of Zimbabwe’s tobacco. Entry of Chinese companies into the sector post-2000 resulted in increase in prices. The companies also assist small-scale farmers through growing the crop under contract in which Chinese companies provide inputs and capital.

In 2021, the two nations agreed on deals for the exportation of citrus fruits to China and for co-operation in water harvesting and irrigation projects that are set to benefit small-scale farmers.

China is also seeking to influence Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector through new technologies and methods, which are being exhibited at Agricultural Demonstration Sites. China has these sites across Africa, and Zimbabwe is a beneficiary.

Chinese development finance to Zimbabwe

From 2000 to 2012, there were about  128 Chinese official development finance projects identified in Zimbabwe ranging  from a loan of US$670 million to expand a hydroelectric dam on Lake Kariba, US$500 million deal to finance Zimbabwe’s local cotton production a loan agreement for the provision of agricultural machinery to Zimbabwean farmers.

China also wrote off Zimbabwe’s US$40 million in debt.

Infrastructure Development projects

Over the years, China has worked on several infrastructure development projects in Zimbabwe, notable among them the construction of the National Sports Stadium, refurbishment of the country’s airports, Kariba Hydro-Power expansion, construction of the Mahusekwa Hospital and the recent construction of the new Parliament building in Mount Hampden.

The construction of Mahusekwa Hospital, is remarkable in that it also underlines China’s assistance in the health sector. The cooperation between China and Africa in health is being dubbed the “Health Silk Road”.

With the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc from 2019, China provided significant assoatmce to Zimbabwe to fight the disease as it provided protective wear, sanitisers and vaccines,making Zimbabwe the most assisted country by China per capita in Africa.

Diplomatic and political cooperation

Zimbabwe and China have worked together closely bilaterally and across various multilateral platforms at the United Nations and African Union.

In the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), Zimbabwe is arguably China’s most important friend, and is located at the heart of the region, which is of immense geostrategic value. In future – as will be discussed below – this aspect could be fully realised.

There has been a remarkable symbiosis and esprit de corps between the two countries as often, the two countries share similar policies and values on international questions.

Unsurprisingly, Zimbabwe has participated in platforms and programmes that China has established in recent years, which are key to shaping the global architecture.

These include the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) and the newly-minted Global Development Initiative, whose benefits are soon to be realised in years to come.

Among key highlights of cooperation on international affairs, China has stood with Zimbabwe in the face of targeted sanctions by the West, including the USA and the EU, over the country’s land reform program meant to equitably re-distribute land.

In 2008, China, along with Russia, vetoed a UN Security Council resolution seeking sanctions against Zimbabwe, with China’s UN ambassador, Wang Guangya saying the sanctions would be “counterproductive”.

China opposes the use of sanctions and coercive practices in international affairs, and Zimbabwe is one of the countries it has consistently supported in line with this principle.

There is a clear trajectory that Zimbabwe and China – barring any major changes – will continue on a strong cooperatin path.

Future areas of cooperation: People at the centre

It is not difficult to predict that Zimbabwe and China will continue enjoying close and fruitful relations within the existing political, social and economic frameworks.

However, some futuristic frameworks are conceivable.

First, Zimbabwe and China will likely to enjoy greater cooperation among their two peoples after the fruition and maturation of relations at diplomatic level as well as Chinese assistance in various areas.

There is predictably going to be better appreciation and respect for Chinese people in Zimbabwe as locals appreciate what China has done over the years.

It is also critical that China and the Chinese people and businesses are also investing in their communities through donations and works of philanthropy.

These will impact Zimbabweans in a huge manner. More Zimbabweans will get to understand  China better.

There is also significant rise in cultural exchange in education and small businesses. Journalists, too, are learning more about China.

All this will result in greater cooperation.

Other areas that Zimbabwe and China will cooperate in greater measure include technology, e-commerce, health and information communication technologies.

At 42, Zimbabwe is just a young nation, compared with the old and time-honoured civilisation that is China.

This means that Zimbabwe will have a lot to learn from its “big brother”, and this will be critical as the two nations enjoy continuing and evolving friendship.

Highlights of China’s key policies and attitudes towards Zim in 2022

•China treats Zimbabwe equally not as either too big too small but as comprehensive strategic partner of cooperation.

• China supports any efforts to remove illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe and will help Zimbabwean people to develop the local economy, overcome sanctions, and achieve progress on National Developmental Strategy

•China doesn’t interfere in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs and doesn’t use democracy, ideologies, corruption or elections as weapons to change things. China recognises that every nation has its own rights of choice. We hope Zimbabwean people can be really Independent.

•China understands that Chinese investments are not perfect but helpful. Chinese investors are not coming with guns and not forcing anyone to render anything. Chinese investments have actually increased revenue and jobs and growth in Zimbabwe.

•Where there are shortcomings in investments, Chinese government and Embassy have a desire to improve and correct. At the same time, China enjoins the Zimbabwean government to act as a key player.

 •China is this year expecting a huge number of vaccines, new projects, and completion of several projects like parliament building and medicine storage compound. This year will be a harvest year of bilateral cooperation.

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