READING about some treacherous deal last week to trade Zimbabwe’s platinum reserves to the Russians in return for some Russian helicopters really got one’s stomach turning. Only a week earlier, we had learnt about how the Chinese were creaming this nation of its diamond endowments in Chiadzwa in return for some supposed military gain by Zimbabwe.
This doesn’t make sense at all, given all this talk bandied about in some circles about selling-out the nation’s sovereignty, ideals blah blah. What about selling-out the country’s finite resources, shouldn’t that count for something? These arms for resources deals are the proverbial selling of one’s birthright for a mess of pottage.
Were he still alive, Walter Rodney, famed for writing a treatise entitled How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, might as well have gotten ready to pen a sequel entitled “How Brics underdeveloped Africa.”
While Africa, Zimbabwe in particular, has been battling to rid itself of the shackles of European colonialism, it is instead going into bondage under the so-called Brics countries; Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Brazil’s place is not yet evident, but so far it’s clear that it’s diamonds to the Chinese, platinum to the Russians, iron to the Indians (remember the Essar deal?) and manufacturing to the South Africans.
A summary visit to the newly-opened Pick n Pay will show that more than 90% of the products sold therein are made in South Africa.
The same goes for Spar. Zimbabwean products in these shops are minuscule, including kapenta fish and madora/macimbi.
In short, behind every one of those shops, which sell the regular needs of consumers, are profits and jobs for South Africa’s factories, not Zimbabwe’s. In order to compete, local retailers such as OK have confirmed they have to import 60% of their products, mainly from South Africa. But our focus is more on resources where we are being short-changed by the Russians and Chinese, our friends from the liberation struggle.
We hope some clandestine arms for resources deals were not signed during the liberation struggle that similarly pledged our resources for a song. For it is now known that at the peak of the cold war, which is when our liberation struggle was prosecuted, the most fancied arm, the AK 47, invented in the Soviet Union, was being produced at 50 US cents a unit by the Chinese.
This begs the question, what is the real value of the military hardware that we are exchanging for our minerals? Isn’t this equipment not cheaply produced and isn’t it obsolescent?
Aren’t we, as Rodney would have put it, exchanging undervalued minerals for overpriced rubbish goods?
And what really is the story with this military build-up?
We cannot deny that any nation needs defence, but we seem to be going overboard.
In any case, the superpowers will never sell us arms that will allow us to defeat them, be they the Russians, Chinese or Americans.
The feared enemies, the US and its allies, have more arms than we have thought to give form, and barring us having nuclear weapons, which we’re not advocating, we don’t stand the slightest chance.
The Iraqis and Libyans can bear testimony, and they even had more resources than we do.
So why not in spite of the flawed deals, redirect the proceeds to more beneficial areas like healthcare, education and more importantly support for the economic sectors of the country, such as infrastructure (and by this we don’t mean military complexes) such as roads, railways, dams etc? Why not direct some of the funds to developing manufacturing and SMEs? Will the real sellouts please stand up!