By Nkosana Dlamini
A top Chinese business representative has blamed the rampant violation of Zimbabwean investment laws by some of his compatriots on language barriers.
Speaking at a panel discussion in Harare on Friday, African Empire Group chairperson Steve Ke Zhao said local media was unnecessarily stereotyping Chinese investors while failing to separate “the bad apples” from the lot.
The candid discussion forum, themed “The state of Chinese business investments in Zimbabwe and future of Sino-Zim relations”, was organised by China-Africa Economic and Culture Exchange and Research Centre.
Earlier, media expert Tawanda Majoni had acknowledged the positive role played by the Chinese in sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, health, mining, and advancing loans to Zimbabwe.
Majoni said China’s investment portfolio in Zimbabwe could not be matched by any country since 2000 but was quick to add, “the positives are now overshadowed by the bad boy tag that the Chinese have been associated with”.
“When people see what they see as impunity, there is a tendency for people to start to be emotional about it,” Majoni said.
“People don’t think the problem is with the Chinese only, of course they also blame the government for overprotecting these people. People tend to think government officials are getting bribes from the Chinese.”
Majoni also said the Chinese have not done themselves any favour by abandoning their public relations portfolio, which has left their operations open to all manner of speculation by both the public and the media.
“There is a vacuum in terms of connecting with the media and therefore there is lack of information, sometimes journalists find it difficult to go and get accurate information from the Chinese…” he said.
In his response, Zhao pointed out that, “In each and every community, there are always bad apples, there are good and bad people… So I cannot say in the Asian community everyone or every company is perfect, but look at the majority (of investors).”
Zhao said a lot of media reports focusing on Chinese investment were never informed by what is happening on the ground.
“Some of the issues and I have to say that again, language is the problem.
“So, some of the people that came in as Chinese investors, they cannot really understand Zimbabwean laws.
So, that’s why from the Chinese companies, we work with government officials, we have more workshops to make people understand the policies in the country.
“So, follow the law in Zimbabwe, follow the policies; that’s one of the things in the Chinese community.
“So, recently in the Chinese companies, we have already started saying if you don’t want to follow the laws in Zimbabwe, please go back to China, we also don’t want you to be here.
“We want clean projects, we want benefiting projects coming to Zimbabwe.”