SADC chief says African states should take blame for unbalanced China deals

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By Leopold Munhende

BLAME for unfair deals struck by African states with China should lie squarely on the continent’s authorities who are often too quick to append their signatures on the agreements without adequate preparation, SADC executive secretary Stergomena Lawrence Tax has said.

Lawrence was addressing the media Friday after a two-day visit to Harare where she had occasion to tour the regional body’s peace keeping centre and Interpol Regional Bureau.

“There is a lot of fear about China and I do not understand the fear. We cooperate with the European Union and a number of partners and it is purely about resources; that is we open our markets and they open theirs,” she said.

She however admitted China’s fast growing influence on the poor continent was cause for worry among member states adding that there was a risk of neo-colonialism by the Asian super power.

“History can repeat itself if we allow it to. The only way is to be prepared when we get to the negotiation table,” Lawrence said.

“If you are not prepared, you should not blame the Chinese. You should not blame the Americans or Europeans. You should blame yourself…there is no reason to worry about China.”

There have been growing fears that Chinese investment in Africa could result in economies overly dependent on the Asian country.

Chinese president Xi Jinping last September pledged some US$60 billion in African investment as it looks to take a lead in what seems to be a fresh “scramble for Africa” among rich states.

This is owing to a new battle for emerging markets on the poor but highly resourced continent.

President Xi Jinping said at the time that his country was entering into no strings attached deals, unlike its Western competitors who have insisted in cutting deals with nations that observe democracy and human rights.

“China’s investment in Africa comes with no political strings attached. China does not interfere in Africa’s internal affairs and does not impose its own will on Africa,” said Jinping in September.

Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Botswana are some of the countries reportedly heavily indebted to the Chinese.

Speaking at the same occasion Friday, SADC’s politics, defence and security secretary Jorge Cardoso defended the continent’s relationship with China, adding that the regional body sought to increase cooperation with its Asian benefactor.

Jorge-Cardoso-Director-on-Politics-Defence-and-Security-Affairs. (Image by Idah Mhetu)

“Nowadays security is multi-dimensional. There is no country which by itself can defend its borders and its citizens against the multitude of threats which we are facing…it calls for greater cooperation and coordination with all countries including China.

“China’s cooperation with the African Union is increasing and we are looking forward to increasing our own,” said Cardoso.

China’s perception in Zimbabwe took a knock after its mining companies, among them Anjin, were fingered in the siphoning of diamonds worth “billions” from the Marange fields to Shanghai.

Opaque operations in the diamond rich region resulted in former President Robert Mugabe reversing some of the deals cut towards diamond mining in the area although the Asians seem to have resumed the operations under President Emmerson Mnangagwa.