Twice in just over two weeks, China has angrily hit out at Zimbabwean anti-corruption activist and senior journalist, Tawanda Majoni, accusing him of bully tactics, peddling falsehoods and seeking to soil its ties with Harare.
The Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe has been angered by Majoni’s claim in a recent opinion article that China was manipulating the Zimbabwean government to concede to Beijing’s “neo-colonial” business interests.
In the article, Majoni questioned the return of Anjin Investments to the Marange diamond fields after being booted out in late 2016 for allegedly smuggling gems out of Zimbabwe.
The article immediately attracted a long and emotional response from the embassy, which accused Majoni of harbouring a “hidden political agenda”, spreading fake news about China and seeking to undermine the China-Zimbabwe relations.
In its second and latest statement run through the government-owned media on Friday, the Chinese embassy said Majoni “who claims to be a journalist and anti-corruption activist, has been making-up so-called inside stories about the Chinese government being involved in Anjin’s business”.
The embassy accused Majoni of seeking to “distort and smear China’s foreign policy towards Zimbabwe” through “carefully woven lies”.
Said the embassy through its unnamed spokesperson: “It (Majoni’s writings) shows his hypocrisy, double standard, fears of being caught in a lie and zero confidence. It also shows that, in his view, the so-called freedom of speech is selective and only for himself. This is a typical bullying practice against the embassy”.
It repeated its denial that China influenced Anjin’s mysterious return despite the Zimbabwean deputy minister, Polite Kambamura, being quoted early last year by the Bloomberg newspaper saying Anjin returned to mine in Marange through a government-to-government agreement.
Last week, the Mines minister, Winston Chitando, implicitly distanced his deputy from the interview in a statement aimed against Majoni.
“The Chinese embassy will never tolerate any false and malicious accusations against the Chinese government, even if the rumour-makers are important persons like Majoni brandishing all kinds of banners of justice,” added the embassy.
The embassy said China was helping “Zimbabwe in promulgating and implementing laws and regulations” in the mining sector.
When reached for a comment, Majoni said Zimbabwean sovereignty was under threat because of Chinese interference with the local constitution.
“The Chinese embassy is inadvertently admitting that it’s meddling with Zimbabwean legislation and law enforcement by helping our government to make laws and enforce them. This is clearly against the provisions of the constitution,” said Majoni.
“Law-making is the preserve of parliament and the executive arm of the government. When China says it is helping Zimbabwe make laws, what it is actually saying is that it is taking away the mandate of our legislature and government.
“Similarly, when it says it is helping with the implementation of the law, it is in fact admitting that it is interfering with the work of our police and other law enforcement agencies. This is disturbing, considering that China is already reported to be infiltrating law enforcement agencies in southern Africa and other parts of the African continent. By its own admission, China is violating our sovereignty,” Majoni added.
He said the over-bearing presence of China in Zimbabwe was also evident in that high-ranking authorities were repeating the embassy’s vitriol against him.
“The whole thing is strange. Where does it happen that a foreign mission harasses and intimidates a citizen of a sovereign state and government officials collude by either siding with the offending mission or keep quiet when they supposed to act?
“I feel exposed and vulnerable. If any harm befalls me, China and the Zimbabwean authorities must be held to account. Here is the world’s second largest economy colluding with my own government, through commission and omission, to advance external and selfish economic and financial interests,” added Majoni.
Most Chinese investments in Zimbabwe have attracted condemnation from locals and international critics over labour and human rights abuses, corruption and non-delivery.