By Leo Munhende
FORMER Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s acrimonious end to Zimbabwe’s healthy relationship with the Western international community in the early 2000s resulted in a dramatic shift, adopting a ‘Look East Policy’ which has not reaped the fruits which were anticipated.
Current developments in the southern African country which have seen him lose grip of power after 37 years at its helm might not just see an end of the ‘revolutionary leader’ and his legacy but signal the restart of working relations with the West which had imposed travel bans and a number of trade restrictions on businesses said to be propping up the dictatorship of Mugabe.
A few days before the 14 November military takeover led by army commander, Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga, Chiwenga was in China where it is believed he got the blessing of China to topple the nonagenarian whom they were finding hard to deal with considering his age, glitzy wife and unrepentant lack of respect for property which had previously seen them being chased out of the diamond rich Chiadzwa region despite their mutual agreements with him.
General Chiwenga met China’s top military brass (General, Li Zuochen who is a member of China’s Central Military Commission and General Chang Wanguang the country’s defence minister) in his three day visit. This visit was however described as a normal military exchange by China.
China’s official response however betrays their interests.
The Chinese seem to be ready to work with any leader to be chosen in the Southern African state as long they protect their economic interests.
China has businesses worth billions of US dollars in the construction, mining and manufacturing sectors of Zimbabwe and their position on ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ will be heavily determined by how best they can protect them.
China’s unwavering stance not to interfere in the governance of other countries will be seen in play as Zimbabwe goes through a transition. There is likely to be no interference or deterrence measure from Beijing considering that Zimbabwe itself is starved of foreign investors and will not in any way destroy its relationship with the Asian giant.
This might assure China that whoever will take over from Mugabe will continue dealing with them as they have ‘stood’ by the country throughout its decade long economic turmoil.
The general assumption will be that Zimbabwe’s new President Mnangagwa will be very willing to continue on the trajectory initiated by Mugabe of working with the Chinese despite the very tempting opportunity to reopen links with the West.
As Zimbabweans celebrate the end of an era of underdevelopment, it is not a secret that the west led by Great Britain and the United States of America are lurking over the potential business opportunities which have been brought by the end of his tenure.
China could just see itself in the driving seat of Zimbabwe’s next developmental shift in the era of Mnangagwa whom they have developed a liking to over the years.
This article was written based on a discussion on the future relationship between Zimbabwe and China after the Robert Mugabe ouster.
Leopold Munhende is a socio-political analyst based in Harare and the Young Journalists Association (YOJA) communications manager. He can be contacted on [email protected]