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Analyst Sees No Dividends in Mnangagwa's China Junket

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, widely expected to succeed President Mugabe as Zimbabwe's next leader. (Collage by Ntungamili Nkomo)

Zimbabwe's Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was in China Monday for what the state media said was a “follow up on mega deals” signed between the two countries last year.

Mnangagwa left Harare Sunday accompanied by Industry Minister, Mike Bimha, and Small Businesses Minister, Sithembiso Nyoni, as well as several government officials.

The Herald newspaper said Mnangagwa was expected to sign "several agreements" with Beijing on top of those signed by his boss, President Robert Mugabe, last year.

Reeling from Western isolation and economic sanctions over human rights concerns, Zimbabwe has over the past decade or so ramped up its business engagement with China under the so-called Look East policy.

But the dividends have been negligible and disproportionate, according to political analyst, Dr. Nkululeko Sibanda, a lecturer at Huddersfield University in the United Kingdom.

“All we know from economic studies is that in effect China has been milking Zimbabwe’s economy and Zimbabwe’s natural wealth in a way that is not equal by what Zimbabwe gets out of China,” Dr. Sibanda opined.

“And the services that we are getting out of China in more than many ways are below standards compared to the services that China provides to other nations in Western countries.”

Zimbabwe’s economy is in pretty bad shape and critics blame government policies such as the indigenization law that compels foreign businesses to cede a 51 percent stake to locals.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) remains subdued as potential investors worry about the safety of their investments in the troubled southern African country.

And with its economic woes deepening by the day, Zimbabwe considers China its best bet.

But “dealing with just one side or one country or one hemisphere in politics is a problem that you don’t get that fine competition and therefore, force it to improve on it relations with you and on its deals with you,” said Dr. Sibanda.