By Daimone Siulapwa
China has dangerously taken over strategically important physical assets and businesses in Zambia, which can later be collateralized in the event Zambia fails to pay its debts and this is most likely to happen because it is clear to see that our government is bankrupt. We are yet to see the impact and the magnitude of the Chinese economic slavery of our citizens within the next 10 years.
China is currently taking control of many African countries’ economies at the speed of light and Zambia has not been spared. Data available reveals that China has overtaken America as Africa’s economic powerhouse since 2009 and at this point you can’t call this relationship between Africa and China as a partnership.
There is actually an economic takeover happening and it is happening because of the way our leaders are negotiating these deal with China. There is far too much and huge kickbacks being offered and this is making it too difficulty for leaders to think properly. This trend can be seem by many loans China has given Zambia in the last five years.
Its difficult to understand why the whole country can be auctioned to such huge amounts in such a short period of time, more over, we cant even see the results equivalent to the money we have borrowed from China.
For crying out aloud, the following is the tip of the iceberg of loans that Zambia has contracted from China in last five years or so. There are many more secret loans that the PF government has acquired which keep mushrooming up each and every year.
Kenneth Kaunda International Airport: $360 million (2014)
750MW Kafue Gorge Lower Power Plant: $1.7 billion (2015)
360MW Kariba North Bank Power Plant Expansion: $430 million (2014)
Lusaka L400 roads: $300 million (2013)
Copperbelt International Airport (Ndola): $400 million (2017)
Lusaka de-congestion: $286 million (2017)
Communication towers – the Topstar deal: $280 million (2017)
Copperbelt C400 roads: $418 million (2015)
Chipata-Serenje railway line: $2.3 billion (2017)
Mongu-Kalabo Road: $287 million (2011)
2,000 Military Houses: $157 million (2017)
Mansa-Luwingu road: $242 million (2012)
Mbala-Nakonde Road: $180 million (2011)
Lusaka sanitation project: $130 million (2015)
Kafubu water and sanitation project: $104 million (2014)
National Heroes Stadium: $94 million (2011)
Levy Mwanawasa Hospital Expansion: $90 million (2015)
Kafulafuta Dam water project: $449 million (2017)
Housing project for security wings: $275 million (2015)
Up and above these loans, the PF government has signed up a number of PPP projects in Zambia, which has given the Chinese government through its Chinese controlled firms control of our strategic assets for nothing less than 30 years or so. Projects like our Lusaka Airport, all tollgate plazas and east park mall are just a few examples.
As the government continues to auction our country to the Chinese by acquiring loans we may not even need, All the while, small-scale Chinese entrepreneurs are also moving into all areas in Zambia and in large numbers and silently, opening up trading shops for just about anything and food included. They are also buying our land with impunity to farm, or erect manufacturing plants and the Zambian governments is welcoming them with open arms without any concern for the future citizens of this country.
The Chinese have become so powerful and influential in Zambia such that they can get anything they want at the expense of the citizens, their influence is so powerful such that a few months ago the Zambian government appointed 8 Chinese nationals into the police force, an act that brought out a national outcry.
The Chinese police appointments were withdrawn within 24 hours of appointment due to the national outcry and the security concerns issued raised by the citizens who took the commissioner of police to task.
In June last years, some Chinese nationals, working for copper smelting companies on the Copperbelt Province were detained by police for suspected illegal purchase of copper tailing raw materials as well as for the torture of innocent illegal Zambian miners.
In show of authority and to prove the extent to which the Zambian government has sold its soul to China, China is said to have threatened to withdraw its investment and slash financial support to Zambia if it’s national arrested in Chingola for illegal mining activities were not released.
The threat forced Government to free the suspects and later deported them leaving many unanswered questions about illegal mining activities by foreign nationals on the Copperbelt.
After a heated diplomatic row, Government bowed to the pressure from Beijing, raising more questions than answers and in some cases confusion as to what exactly the Chinese were involved in and why they were released and deported without charge.
The arrested Chinese then where accused of, among other things, running unlicensed smelting plants and employing children. The arrests happened in a joint police and immigration operation in the town of Chingola.
Lin Songtian, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s director-general for African affairs, said that while he supports measures to deal with illegal mining, in this case proof had not been provided.
But Government sources revealed at that time China used its muscle to force the release of its national with threats of withdrawal of investments if Zambia continued treating them with scorn.
There were reports of China giving Zambia an ultimatum to release the suspects after a heated meeting with senior Government officials from Home Affairs and foreign Affairs ministries.
Irate Chinese Embassy officials hoped Zambia could handle the incident ‘appropriately and as soon as possible’, and release the innocent as opposed to an aggressive and confrontational stance.
It is now becoming clear and evident that African countries don’t have the capabilities of repaying the debts contracted from China and these debts will continue to be a significant burden for the all governments in the coming years and decades. It is unfathomable how these governments will be able to undertake other infrastructural projects even if their economy grows in the midst of huge debts.
It begs the question, then, of how the Zambian government will possibly repay the Chinese for all this infrastructure construction. Given the ballooning amount of debt from more and more loans taken on to finance infrastructural developments now and in the future, Zambia is likely to require more than just a portion of our limited budget to complete repayment. More likely than not, we may have to resort to payments in kind. Refer, ZNBC, Tollgates, and NRDC, Kamwala shopping Mall, East Park shopping mall, Lusaka Airport and the AVIC land scandal.
The concept of “in-kind payments” smacks of colonialism in many absolute ways. The historical precedent of European colonists comes to mind. Europeans built infrastructure in Africa at the turn of the century, purportedly also for local economic development, but in essence the projects were used for natural resource extraction.
The copperbelt in Northern Rhodesia and Harare in Southern Rhodesia where all built up for mineral exploitation of our resources. The rail line from South Africa, through Zimbabwe into Zambia and through to the copperbelt connected inland regions with mineral deposits with major ports on the Indian Ocean through Tanzania, such was the extent of their foresight in mineral exploitation then and China has the same foresight on strategic assets though we are now being make to fall in the debt trap willingly.
For example, Enoch Kavindele’s construction of the Northwest railway line from Chingola in the Copperbelt province to Solwezi in North-western province, which was set to start in January 2017, has not take off (maybe it has silently). The project is expected to cost UDS 1.2 billion and is expected to create about 8,000 jobs during the construction period and over 3, 000 jobs after it is completed.
The project was going to be financed by the African Development Bank AfDB and the Development Bank of Southern Africa. Since the project has stalled, it is fair to say the problem has been financing and it may take the Chinese who have huge mineral interest in North-Western province to finance the project.
And there is no doubt that the Chinese also desires some of the same natural resources sought out by European colonialists a century or more years ago. While building infrastructure, the Chinese have also invested massively in local mines and processing facilities. Now we know without any doubt that, at least part of the cargo to be shipped out of Zambia by the new Chinese roads constructed with Chinese financing is expected to be natural resources to feed the Chinese industrial machine in China.
Viewed in this light, there cannot be any doubt as to the financial viability of providing loans to Zambia as China gains huge political leverage for debts owned to them, which in turn provides them the opportunity to exploit all our mineral resources and our land. By ensuring that these debts are paid in some form or the other, whether it is economic concessions, political agreements, or a combination of both, China may in the long term formulate a new kind of diplomatic relationships for us to part away with huge chunks of land and our sovereignty.
Our troubles have just begun and our children and grandchildren must brace themselves for modern economic slavery, but if we act now, we could make a difference.
*Daimone Siulapwa is the founder and Edito-In-Chief of the Voice Newspaper in Zambia. For comments, please email [email protected]*