PART 1: An Agenda to Swivel… act Sore…Sigh…and have Tea to please Paymasters
By Sunday Chilufya Chanda
The issue of debt from China has been grossly distorted by some members of the opposition and their allied civil society who are waging a less than subtle anti-government and anti-China campaign that borders on xenophobia.
When people who are deemed to be civil begin to talk and act as if they possess sole ownership of title to moral high ground and when they deliberately try to give the impression that they have an exclusive patent to wisdom, there is cause to question their motive.
And when they deliberately jump to conclusions based on nothing, but raw gossip and spiteful speculation and they harp on with rhetorical questions to which they have already received answers one begins to wonder about their civil nature (or the lack of it). In such a situation, one can only be led to the logical conclusion that they are bent by the cynical rather than balanced by the empirical.
For the benefit of those who conveniently choose to ignore statements from the Ministry of Finance: Zambia has contracted both concessional and commercial debt from China. OUR NATION HAS NOT DEFAULTED ON ANY DEBT FROM CHINA or any other country, and appropriate measures are being taken to ensure it remains that way.
We further wish to remind our colleagues particularly in “civil Society” that every contracted loan is published in the Government’s Mid-Year and Annual Economic Reports that are laid before Parliament as required by law.
The Economic Reports are widely distributed to all stakeholders and to both the electronic and print media audiences.
Our friends are at centre stage of the anti-China puppet show being played out here in Zambia and it should not come as a surprise. It should in fact be expected -those pulling their strings thousands of miles away in the west.
All this drama is the outcome of the discomfort of Sino-phobic western powers and their agents at the blossoming of Chinas relationship with Africa.
Rwanda journalist Gerald Mbanda gives some useful insight into Afro-Sino relations and the resultant flak from the sulking west and its agents:
“Western countries mistake China’s cooperation with Africa as something new, which is not the case. Although China’s presence in Africa is more visible today than ever before, with increased trade, large infrastructure projects and loans, the friendship between China and Africa dates to the 1950s and 1960s, when African countries were struggling for independence.
It should not be conveniently forgotten that China had well established diplomatic relations with the Organization of African Unity which advocated the total liberation of the African continent.
The OAU later transformed into The African Union, and when China built the $200 million AU headquarters in 2012, it cemented the long friendship between China and Africa.
Rather than being a gift or bribe as Western countries have claimed, it was slap in the face for the West, which had never even considered doing something like that.”
While China is currently helping many countries with infrastructure development which is a key determinant for economic prosperity, Mbanda also highlights China’s historical support in the liberation struggle on the continent:
“China supported Africa countries’ liberation struggles even when its own economy faced serious challenges. The Great Leap Forward, which was aimed at rapidly transforming China from an agrarian to industrialized economy, failed to take off.
Then Chinese leader Chairman Mao Zedong was trying to adapt a Soviet economic model which did not work as expected, probably because it was not the right time for China due to the lack of sufficient capital to invest heavily in both industry and agriculture at the same time.
He later concentrated more on efficient ways of organizing labour and increasing agricultural production.”
“Thus, China’s support to the African liberation struggles was not that of a rich nation supporting poor Africa, or a method of trying to take over Africa. It was out of ideological clarity and sacrifice for the liberation of the oppressed African peoples.
Given this, and China’s foreign policy of non-interference in domestic affairs, cultural respect and the absence of racial prejudice, China has gained much acceptance in Africa.”
In terms of “historical baggage”:
“China also does not have the historical baggage in Africa that Western countries do.
The relationship between the West and Africa since the 16th century has been dominated by gross human rights violations, notably the slave trade, killings and massive plunder of Africa’s resources. Today, the West Champions human rights and gives lessons to Africans on how they should behave…”
Mbanda article tells it as it is.
We are not saying the Chinese are perfect; nobody is. Just like in any society, there will be good people and bad people. It would be hypocritical to hold the Chinese to a higher moral standard than ourselves, our former colonial powers and the neo—colonial west, or any other peoples.
Considering the above, it is very unfortunate that some of our Civil Society Organisations have misunderstood their role.
More often than not, these CSO’s have exhibited more of a reactionary approach to engaging with government. They are irrationally antagonistic to the state and are always in opposition mode with their thinly veiled interest in acquiring political power through their inclination towards the UPND. Their reluctance to censure the opposition whenever it insults government and the judiciary is clear testimony that they are an appendage of an opposition party.
They are elitist and lack representation at grassroots level; they represent themselves and their paymasters only.
As Mweshi (2009) observes; “CSOs are greatly reliant on foreign donors for funding, and to some extent they compete amongst each other for donors. This has implications for the independence of the organizations’ agendas and ideologies, and it places serious constraints on home-grown strategies for development.
It is common for NGOs to change their strategies and missions to align with those of their foreign funders, and they promote a rhetoric that validates their existence only by compromising their character…”
The foregoing commentary is a sad reality of the status quo and subsequently an indictment on CSO’s and their standing.
Laura Miti and company play to the tune of their sponsors and can never say anything against their controller’s agenda. In one of her typically prejudiced articles Ms. Miti hypothesised that “borrowing will cause PF to lose power in 2021”. If this were to be, it would make her jump for joy.
The truth is that Ms Miti and her “civil society” colleagues are aware that with the investment from China and its resultant infrastructure development in roads, bridges schools, hospitals etc., PF will be untouchable in 2021. However, if by any chance, PF heeded her woeful “counsel”, there would certainly be nothing for PF to show …in which case she would only do cartwheels and gloat with glee!
They would in such a scenario be the first to claim that “PF has failed and so should be voted out”.
CSOs mustn’t just end at expressing irrational fears and asking Govt what next – they must be challenged to present expert ideas on how to ensure that we safeguard macroeconomic and debt sustainability.
However, they seem to be preoccupied with some kind of fear of the unknown. Perhaps it is an obsession to maintain the proportions of the deep receptacles of reward of their sponsors?
They receive money with a mission… to advance particular agendas. This causes them to speak with pre-determined ideas from a compromised position. That is why they have conveniently chosen to overlook the details of our response on ZESCO and ZNBC.
We are deeply concerned that they appear to have veered off the straight and narrow and are perilously off course. They are now steeped in a one-track minded groove of prejudice all because they need to justify funding for activities from their Sino-phobic donors.
These are persons who have at one time or another been of great benefit to our nation. They need to look deep within to reflect on what they have become. Prejudice, racial bias, bigotry and unverified gossip should be below them – they are deemed too decent for that.
It is a sad irony that they are the ones that are selling out this country with their unpatriotic propaganda. Money is the string with which the sardonic puppeteers direct the motions of their puppets; and the puppets love their strings.
Their credibility is in question. Can they come out clean on their funding?
Can they publish their audited accounts for each member organisation and collectively as CiSCA or whatever format they choose to morph?
How much do they each get paid as Directors in their respective “organisations”?
If they’ve got nothing to hide can they divulge their source of funding and how it is spent?
If they really mean well why haven’t they condemned the opposition sponsored proliferation of online anti-China sentiment and hate speech promulgated through fake articles and videos?
They are in a marriage of (in) convenience with our foreign sponsored opposition which sides with “liberal” neo-colonialists. Their aim is to retain and return our wealth to colonial masters. However, they have to contend with our masters-the people.
In the meantime, while they “SWIVEL in their chairs …talk and act SORE…SIGH and have TEA for a living; we are focused on the people and national development.
Nothing will deter us from serving the people through the execution of the PF manifesto and related goals such as vision 2030, and the 7th National Development plan among others.
To achieve this, we need to cure the country’s infrastructure deficit in order to attract foreign direct investment; Good business that is good for the economy.
It hasn’t missed the attention of the nation that these same people never condemned the prospects of an IMF bailout agreement and in fact, whenever it appeared the process hit a snag; these same people jumped in wide eyed delight.
Is the question that it’s a Chinese debt or that it’s a debt?
Would these persons have reacted the same way had it been any other country lending to Africa and Zambia?
At the end of the day, like Deng said:” it doesn’t matter the colour of the Cat, so long as it catches the mice”.
We have to push back the frontiers of underdevelopment and poverty by investing in our infrastructure (in the economy).
They must resist the temptation of playing to the gallery of neo-colonial agenda.
They must remain civil.
Ours is a civil agenda…with many civil works.
The author is the PF Media Director At the Patriotic Front Secretariat In Lusaka
In the next article under this series “Dealing with Uncivil Agendas in the Development Arena” Sunday Chanda discusses Why the West Is Opposed to Chinese Investment, What China Does for Africa That the West Doesn’t and How Europe has always misunderstood what Africans want.