A South African investor who operates in the transport and mining sector has alleged that the Patriotic Front (PF) is excercising favourtism toward Chinese investors when it comes to deals, permits, and tenders.
The investor, James Du Plessis, said in Lusaka that the government is giving extraordinary leeway to Chinese construction businesses, that has led to an exploitation of the market and a lack of competition and quality service.
Foreign investors should be treated equally no matter where they come from, Du Plessis argues, if the PF government wants to attract the best services at the best prices.
Prior to the 2011 elections, PF leader Michael Sata campaigned on an aggressive anti-China campaign to capitalise on public anger and gain support from the U.S. Embassy, titling them as “foreign infestors.” However, since coming into power, the PF has turned out to be much closer to Beijing than the previous administration.
“The problem that you have in Zambia is that you do not have a president. That man you have there is a cheap dummy figure-head. He is faceless and has lost touch and contact with the people. I am sure he doesn’t even know what is happening around him, apart from doing business with the Chinese,” Du Plessis said.
Du Plessis said all the big and small tenders in the construction were awarded to Chinese investors, adding that the people of Zambia must question whether there are really no other businesses that could do these jobs.
He said Zambians must remain alert because the PF government had sold the local economy to the Chinese, who have turned State House and all the government ministries their playground.
“This is the government that promised us fairness and equity when dealing with the Chinese. What we are seeing now is total indifference and a mess to say the least. They promised to deal and control the Chinese, but it is apparent that the Chinese are controlling this government. The Chinese have not left those markets where they are cooking the local staple food. The Chinese have not stopped pushing wheelborrows in the industry. The Chinese have not stopped raring chickens in the farms. In fact, they have increased their activities in these areas – so there is even less benefit to ordinary Zambians from the foreign workers. I travel to many remote parts of Zambia and I find Chinese have set up villages in rural areas where they are exploiting minerals illegally,” he said.
Du Plessis alleged that believed there were corrupt dealings between PF government officials and the Chinese in the awarding of public tenders.
He alleged that there were PF officials who had been awarded road construction tenders even when they had no capacity to undertake the works and these individuals had ‘sold’ the contracts to Chinese sources.
“Zambia has become to country where business is for the Chinese first and all the other investors, including Zambians come later. There are other investors from Japan, Germany, Australia, India, South Africa, which is Zambia’s biggest trading partner in Africa and many other destinations. We are asking as to why the Chinese have been given so much priority,” he said.
Du Plessis said the local currency would continue to depreciate once the government ignored measures aimed at diversifying the economy away from mining in order to create industries that would encourage local production of goods and services for the export market.
From the look of things, he said, the government had gone to bed with the Chinese and there was nothing being done to avert the nose diving value of the Kwacha.