There are mixed feelings within Central Africa (Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi) about the Chinese, who have invaded┬á the region┬á and have flooded the market with goods such as clothing, farming implements, home appliances and furniture, tools and toys.
They have also won contracts to build roads, schools and clinics, stadiums, parliament buildings, national monuments and other such projects for which they employ locals whom they pay very little.
In Zimbabwe, there has been an outcry about the rude behaviour of the Chinese who beat up workers and pay them below the stipulated minimum wages.
Al Jazeerah television this week aired a documentary shot during the recent Zambian elections and interviewed incoming president Michael Sata.
Sata did not have kind words about the men from the Far East, accusing them of practising unfair labour policies.
He said the Chinese “offer very low salaries to workers and they give no safety clothing and have been corrupt in the manner in which they┬á won government contracts from the outgoing administration of President Rupiah Banda”.
But Zambia’s first and former President Kenneth Kaunda, who was interviewed in the documentary, had very good words about the Chinese, saying they had come to the aide of his country a long time ago when the British were taking over most parts of Africa.
The Chinese now control the copper mining in Zambia just as they┬á have sneaked into the lucrative diamond mining in Chiadzwa in Marange district of Manicaland in Zimbabwe where they have partnered with the government and are doing roaring business.
Many people in both Zimbabwe and Zambia see the Chinese as people only interested in the local resources and nothing else.
In Malawi, President Bingu Wa Mutharika recently heaped praise on the Chinese saying their involvement in cotton farming has created many jobs for his people and taught┬á them to work hard.
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is very close to the Chinese, a friendship which goes back to the mid 1960s when the Chinese rendered immense assistance┬á to Zanla forces, the fighting wing of Mugabe’s Zanu party then.
┬áThe current Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa trained with the Chinese and hence today, the Chinese are playing an increasingly big role in Zimbabwe’s military.
They are busy constructing a huge Defence College outside the capital Harare and have entered into lucrative military deals with the government.
However, the MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai has expressed concern at how the Chinese are being handled with kid gloves as if they were super citizens of the country.