Monday, 30 April 2007
Bad news for Africa's Joe Ordinary
An interesting article from Britain's The First Post;
Tazivei, a tough-looking 30 year-old, works at the S&M brickworks outside Harare, and he's just been paid. He should be a happy man, but he's not. He's covered in bites from lice, his hands and feet are corrugated with painful cracks, he works in filthy conditions and his pay is miserably low. Tazivei works for the Chinese.
The Chinese are Mugabe's new friends. China is currently the world's biggest investor in Zimbabwe, and Chinese-owned businessmen flourish here (the southern part of Harare has become known as China City). One of them is Mr Meng, who owns S&M.
Tazivei stuffs his pay in his pocket, and gestures around the brickworks. "Look at it. There are no toilets here. That's why it stinks. We have to go where we can. So most of us have got dysentery. The government knows, but it doesn't care."
He peels off his shirt to show me his back. It is pockmarked with bites. Lice and flies thrive here. He shows me scars, too. "We are given no protective clothes, no overalls or gloves or safety shoes."
Mr Meng isn't totally blind to his workers' needs. Occasionally he distributes Chinese-made plastic shoes, known here derisively as 'Zhing Zhongs'. They fall apart in a week.
Tazivei is a union member, but his senior regional officer, Alex Masarakufa, is helpless to change things. "Nothing much we can do," he told me. He means that Mr Meng and his countrymen are untouchable.
Zimbabwe's dependence on China is breathtaking. More than 35 different Chinese companies now operate in the country, and Chinese investment stands at US$600m. In return the Chinese are awarded mining concessions and acres of rich tobacco-growing land, much of which was grabbed from the white farmers for redistribution to black people.
Under one recent deal, China is to give Zimbabwe a US$58m finance facility, to purchase farming equipment, implements and tools. In return, Zimbabwe must send 110,000 tonnes of tobacco to China over two years. It'll be tough going for us. The Chinese strike a hard bargain.
Poor countries, and we're talking Africa here, are screwed, and have been for years, by their own, black, rulers. The overseas assets of the past and present ruling elite of Africa come to 141% of that continent's national debt. Political Correctness and Western Liberals have kept that particular elephant-in-the-room quiet for a long time.
China are muscling in on Africa in a big way. They won't directly or legally rule the Africans like we did, but the Africans will certainly know who's boss - they'll know who has the greenbacks. And they already know what the Chinese think of them - and that is; "you are subhuman".
Our (Britain's) rule, although morally wrong, on balance benefited Africans hugely. But then their rulers-in-waiting could see a better time ahead for the tiny minority that were........the rulers-in-waiting. And so it came to pass and the lives and welfare of the now rulers, did indeed increase greatly. But, as we all know, their charges' lot didn't fare so well. The rulers will also benefit greatly when China comes to town. But for the ordinary African, things are about to get a whole lot worse. And there are no sympathisers back in China to lobby for Africa's Joe Ordinary.