The Sunday Mail
The local Press has vilified the Chinese accusing them of being cruel employers, racist even. The reports invariably also carry helpful insinuations contrasting this ‘‘savagery’’ with the benevolent Europeans and how we desperately need their embrace. There does seem to be evidence of Chinese nationals pushing workers to labour for long hours and sometimes slapping black workers for alleged poor performance.
The helpful question is how the Chinese treat their own kind in China. If there is a distinction, then there could be grounds for accusing the Chinese of racism. A quick look on the internet reveals that they certainly do not mollycoddle them. Workers in China endure long shifts and even visiting the toilet is tightly regulated. A few months ago the BBC reported a factory fire in a chicken-processing factory that left hundreds dead. The workers had been locked in.
This is not an isolated incident. The Chinese push workers to the limit. I am disinterested in the moral of this but am more eager to understand the seemingly cruel behaviour displayed by Chinese managers here in Zimbabwe.
The problem arises when a Chinese businessman comes to Zimbabwe, employs someone who arrives late and two hours later is already sitting around a can of paint cooking sadza with seven of his colleagues.
Unable to speak in English, the Chinese man can be forgiven for lashing out and slapping someone.
Why are seven of you sitting around a pot cooking food two hours into work? If the cooking has to happen at all, surely one person could do it while the rest carry on with their tasks?
Anyone coming from a highly productive society will be dismayed by the poor work ethic we have developed in this country.
Workers arrive late, they read newspapers at work, they loiter around the building and they go for lunch before lunch and come back after lunch and then leave before five.
The worst offenders are civil servants who seem to believe that their services are an act of grace.
While it is wrong for anyone to use violence on employees I can understand why the Chinese often find themselves frustrated to the point of violence. I am sure the reader could recall a few moments when they could have slapped the life out of a rowdy civil servant.
In Chihuri’s defence
It is said that Chihuri quipped that he could actually flush out errant kombis within two minutes — this in response to an editorial that he could restore order within five hours. Perhaps a bit of hyperbole on his part, but the point is the same; the police have the capacity to quickly and decisively deal with the kombi nuisance.
The problem does not seem be the flushing out of kombis but the vacuum such an action would create.
The police are believed to have statistics showing that up to 90 percent of kombis do not have their documentation in order.
A determined operation to bring order would have the unintended consequence of leaving commuters with no way to get home.
If these are the facts, then his restraint is to be applauded and embarrassing a trigger-happy media that has been trying to goad him into rash action. However, this does not explain why the police have not lobbied for heavier fines for reckless driving or overloading.
While a compromise might be necessary in the interim as some kind of public transport system is worked out, there is no reason why kombis should not follow the rules of the road.
There is no good reason why kombis should not be held up to road-worthiness standards.
Last week Nathaniel Manheru, widely suspected to be a senior official in the President’s Office, complained bitterly over what he perceives as backtracking on indigenisation and the failure to articulate clear policy. There seems to be panic in some sections of Government over the economy thus the attempt to make concessions to big business and calls from Mzembi and company for ‘‘sobriety’’ and a push-back by ‘‘hardliners’’ demanding we carry on as planned and stop being ‘‘childish’’.
The mistake here is in thinking that business has a problem with indigenisation itself. It does not and has said as much. What is required is a clear, consistent policy that is predictable. This is a fair demand. Suddenly abandoning something you vowed to implement as a matter of principle does not paint the picture of steady reliable hands but grappling hands that are unsure about direction.
Interestingly, PPC is investing a fresh US$200 million in the country.
This is peculiar seeing that it has already indigenised but is choosing to bring in nearly a quarter of a billion dollars into this investor ‘‘unfriendly’’ country.
This is hardly the picture of business collapsing under the unbearable load of indigenisation.
The same is true of Caledonia whose Blanket Mine has also indigenised. The CEO, Stef Hayden, has come out in the open and said he is delighted with the manner in which the mine was indigenised. The company continues to operate.
Tsvangirai’s financial solution
Still on PPC, Tsvangirai might have found a solution to his financial problems. His son is holding the claims that PPC want to build their operations for speculative purposes and is now demanding an eye-watering US$10 million. He has not developed the claim in anyway nor has he made any attempt to invest.
If ever there was a reason for intervention, this is it. It seems outrageous that someone takes a claim from Government free of charge and then sits on it for five years and then sells it for an US$10 million. If anyone should be getting that money it should be the taxpayer.
Alternatively, Government should levy a punitive tax of up to 85 percent. The 15 percent would be a thank you for finding a buyer.
Trudy Stevenson now serving Mugabe
Trudy Stevenson is serving as ambassador at Mugabe’s pleasure. I wonder how many MDC and MDC-T diplomats would have also agreed to remain in service if they by chance had been offered. I suspect quite a few.
This raises some interesting questions about Mugabe’s Government and allegations that it is illegitimate. Why would anyone agree to serve an illegitimate government and represent its interests as ambassador?
Stevenson has made no such comments, but she is, after all, from one of the opposition parties the West alleges were cheated by Zanu-PF.
The same is true of MDC-T diplomats that stayed on for a few months after the election hoping they would be retained.
The point here is about how seriously we take what our politicians say.
If Mugabe were illegitimate, I would have thought that Tsvangirai would do the right thing and reject his unrighteous generosities and quickly vacate that Government mansion in Highlands.
The truth of it is that Tsvangirai and the opposition do not mean what they say or say what they mean.
A senior official within the movement recently admitted as much over dinner, explaining that their claims that the CIO is behind the Renewal Team are merely politics that many of their supporters would believe.
He laughed heartily, explaining that a politician must do what a politician must do, as he gobbled up a rather expensive steak ordered at our expense.