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Chinese Merchants Fear Zimbabwe Political Instability

  • Tatenda Gumbo

Chinese business operators in Zimbabwe are worried about the country's political uncertainty and fear early elections may stir instability that will affect their enterprises, says outgoing Chinese Ambassador to Harare, Xin Shunkang.

The ambassador says he assured the merchants from his country in a recent meeting that political upheavals would be avoided if Beijing and Harare worked together in ensuring peace and stability.

China, the leading investor in Africa, has long been criticized for its lax response to democratic stability and reforms in certain countries.

Chinese investors in Zimbabwe, operating businesses mainly in retail and construction, have been criticized for underpaying and ill-treating workers. A local minister recently urged locals to boycott their goods and service in protest.

Legal expert Alex Magaisa said the statement is a political move by the Chinese who have been a key ally to the Zanu PF arm of the unity government for a long time, and the ambassador couldn't have been more directly.

"The reality of international politics is that there are no permanent friends, there are permanent interests and this is what nations pursue, and China is no different it is playing its cards very carefully," said Magaisa

Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe economist, Prosper Chitambara, said the business community maybe worried about the economic consequences of an early election.

"What has happened in the past is likely to result in volatility and uncertainty and its also accompanied by violence which is not good for business, the Chinese are just taking a rational view like any other business," said Chitambara.

Chitambara said there might be some political backlash from workers who have charged the Chinese firms of improper labor practices.

"I think there can also be some fear of backlash assuming that it would create a change in government, as the current government hasn't been very firm on the Chinese."

During his stay in Zimbabwe, Ambassador Xin Shunkang received two prizes for being the best diplomat from an Asian country accredited to Zimbabwe and the best diplomat for all countries represented in the country.

His tenure ends June 17th.