A RECENT donation of Chinese military hardware to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has raised eyebrows as the Asian superpower pushes to further its interests in Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa received the military hardware on Wednesday last week, with observers arguing that the donation could open floodgates for further Chinese military expansion in southern Africa, where the West also seems to have strong interests.
The equipment included armoured fighting vehicles, personnel carriers, ambulances, motorised water purifiers, patrol boats, minibuses, sniper rifles, machine guns and hand pistols.
The donation was presented to Mnangagwa at Inkomo Mechanised Brigade by the Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe Zhou Ding, who spoke highly of the two countries’ historical ties.
However, political and social commentators were divided over the donation, with human rights defender and Centre for Natural Resources Governance director Farai Maguwu saying the deal was meant to further the Chinese interest in the mining sector.
Maguwu told NewsDay that China’s donation was driven by interest especially in Zimbabwe’s mineral resources.
“There is no free lunch, nations are driven by interests not love. The most important thing is to find out what the motive behind the donation is. So, when you look at the destructive role of China in Zimbabwe’s mineral sector, it’s not meaningful,” he said.
“The Chinese involved in the mineral sector have not been able to build even a school or clinic in communities they have been working in.”
Maguwu added: “We have not been at war with any country since independence. The real enemy we want to fight today is poverty, climate-induced disasters, droughts, fight against decline in health and education standards, that is what we need.”
Political analyst Tendai Reuben Mbofana said the deal was dishonest and disturbing.
“The deal was an anti-people one. We are looking at a country that is globally known for its poverty, nearly half of the population is living in extreme poverty, we do not have hospitals equipped to serve the people and basic essentials,” he said.
“We do have cancer machines. We do not have ambulances and we have children who are learning under trees because they do not have schools.”
He said the military equipment would not help ordinary Zimbabweans or improve their lives.
“What do we need guns for when our children are languishing in extreme poverty? Who are we fighting? This equipment can be used to kill civilians,” he said.
However, professor of world politics at the University of London Stephen Chan said the donation was of little significance.
“For the most part, the Chinese donation is light tactical skirmishing equipment for border wars — not all of it useful, such as the patrol boats,” he said.
“Zimbabwe’s only real water border is Lake Kariba, and its neighbour on the other side, Zambia, poses no military threat. This is a goodwill gesture from China, probably excess equipment it no longer needs itself.
“Having said that, the motorised water purifiers might have a beneficial non-military use in helping to alleviate the cholera epidemic caused by impure water. For the most part this donation has no global geo-political context.”
Source – newsday