China has accused some Zimbabwean non-governmental organisations of pushing a xenophobic agenda following protests against the displacements of locals by mining companies from the Asian country.
Twenty-seven NGOs recently published a statement calling for an end to the displacement of villagers by Chinese companies scouting for gold, coal, chrome, diamonds and other minerals.
Since President Emmerson Mnangagwa came to power in 2017 following a military coup, Chinese companies have been scrambling to invest in the southern African country, mainly in the mining sector.
The investors have poured in at least $2.5 billion in recent years, but some of them have been accused of rampant labour rights violations and causing damage to the environment.
A number of disputes have been reported between Chinese companies and villagers, who accuse investors of not consulting them before embarking on projects, prompting protests from NGOs.
The Chinese embassy, however, lashed out at the NGOs, accusing them of being “superfluous” and xenophobic.
“The overwhelming majority of Chinese companies in Zimbabwe are law-abiding, conscientious corporate citizens,” the embassy said in a statement.
“We take exception to the attempt to pounce on questions from interactions to which a Chinese company is only one party out of several and stretch the questions to indict the entire Chinese business community and even Chinese policy towards Africa.
“The concoction of nebulous language slanting against Chinese investments, one-sided arguments, unqualified assertions and fake stories smells of a recipe frequently used to stir up xenophobic sentiments.
“This is organised political manipulation.”
The embassy accused the NGO of being tools of external forces.
It said that instead of demonising Chinese companies, the NGOs should be speaking against sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the West.
The embassy said without Chinese investments, Zimbabwe would have fallen far behind on development because of the sanctions.
“Were it not for China’s funding support and the work of Chinese companies in ICT and power generation, even the statement in question would perhaps have to be scribbled on a piece of paper, in a candle-lit room, and never find its way on a functioning internet,” it said.
“How can a few unsubstantiated stories be used to negate China’s real, enormous contribution to the development of Zimbabwe…and the improvement of the wellbeing of ordinary citizens?”
The embassy added: “Suffice to say that they are significantly outnumbered by the Zimbabwean employees working in companies established with Chinese investment and outnumbered by the ordinary Zimbabwean citizens who are benefiting from China-Zimbabwe cooperation."
“Chinese State-owned and private businesses have been making (a) great contribution to the improvement of local people’s livelihoods."
“Dragging Chinese investors into political sideshows or making them victims of domestic political vendettas hurts the people of Zimbabwe and the development of the country.”
Earlier, the Chamber of Chinese Enterprises in Zimbabwe (CCEZ), which represents some of China’s big corporations operating in Zimbabwe, said the accusations by the NGOs were false and xenophobic.
“We strongly deplore and oppose groundless accusations that are malicious and driven by falsehoods,” CCEZ said.
“Our member companies employ more than 100,000 local people throughout different sectors, worth billions in US dollars of investment.
“Instead of engaging in microphone diplomacy and manipulation of public opinion, anyone or any civil society can resort to legal means if any of our member companies do anything illegal. People who engage in microphone diplomacy always have their clandestine political agendas.”
Chinese companies are behind several ongoing big infrastructure projects in Zimbabwe that include a new parliament building, expansion of the country’s main thermal and hydropower stations and Robert Mugabe International Airport.