Frank Mwenefumbo’s response to a question on what the UDF would do about the illegal logging and mining by Chinese nationals during the running mate’s debate should send shivers in Beijing and at Area 12.
Mwenefumbo started his response by saying it is not just the Chinese doing the plunder and wondered why there are no strict laws for immigrants in Malawi like there are abroad and then he dropped the bombshell:
“The UDF will make tougher immigration laws, and as for the aforementioned Chinese…The Chinese, I personally do not see their value here because when they bring their money, their loans, they bring their own workers and Malawi does not gain a thing and yet we will give back this loan, this , the UDF government will look into and to be honest we should wary with the coming of the Chinese, the do not add value to our economy.”
The moderator got spooked and asked if that policy would not scare investors. Mwenefumbo stood his ground.
|Didn't Hold Back - Mwenefumbo|
UTM’s response was tame and beat about the bush but it also hinted to taming migrants and bemoaned the lack of laws. The MCP took a dig at the Chinese who come to open bars in
rural areas and indicated that the country should only invite ‘real’ investors.
PP’s Jana gave an interesting response saying the tough laws are already here and pointed at the judiciary as part of the problem of the laws being ignored.
Now, maybe, Jana meant to point that finger at the Police who need to enforce the law, but the bigger story there was the unified anti-China statement that echoed from the debators and the audience.
Now here is my take.
First, let us do the fact-checking. The Chinese - be it through MUST, grants, loans, scholarships, projects like roads BICC, cheap materials and as a market for raw material - do add value to the economy.
As for everything else…
We indeed need to stop the poaching and we indeed cannot just open our streets to anyone who wishes to come. That is on one hand, on the other it is not the Chinese who locate the mines or forests to plunder, they don’t shoot the elephants, they don’t fly into Malawi under cover of night.
As Malawian working in China, I cannot just get a job or start a business here without proper and sometimes excessive and prohibitive paperwork. I am not allowed to stay in 90% of the hotels here, If I rent an apartment or even just move to a new city, I need to register with the police within 48 hours.
So, as you can see, and as Jana mistakenly pointed out, the problems are with our enforcers. If we shut out the Chinese, the Nigerians will come, if we shut out everyone else, we will do it ourselves. We do it well enough in Dzalanyama (which feeds Lilongwe with unchecked illegal charcoal.)
If we want to protect our resources, why not do it? Do Chinese force their way into the national parks? If China was lawless, I could be a drug dealer, or also go and traffic some pandas or start a prostitution ring, that is not possible because the Chinese are vigilant, have the will to check and prevent and the operational tough laws to deter.
Also, why do the Chinese not cut down forests in the UK and why do we never hear reports of illegal Chinese mining in Canada or poaching in the Yellowstone National Park in the USA?
The problem is with our system and these bad Chinese guys are just cashing in on an open gap. Here is where I also need to say that the Chinese criminals need to be separated from the Chinese as a nation. If a Malawian is caught dealing drugs in Hong Kong, we do not expect it to be seen as representing government or the people in Malawi as a whole. See?
On Loans and Investments
As for the unfair loans and the projects that see cheap labour imported from China, it is the same thing as the poaching and illegal mining. A loan is an agreement, it was signed and all details fine-tuned and agreed to before it was given. If we want to prevent an influx of Chinese labourers or ridiculous project arrangements, let us do so before signing the agreements.
It will be very interesting to see how the Chinese respond to this. They will make a mistake by siding with DPP because it will mean admission of guilt. The best way is for them to deny the involvement with criminals and declare that the laws deal with criminals.
China can also simply avoid these issues by employing local labour, how this is such a hard thing to do baffles me.
The Chinese can also do themselves a favour by engaging in more areas than just trying to promote their culture and business. This to me is a huge weakness on their part.
Also interesting is the fact that despite all the exploitation by Western nations, only China is being picked out. No one is brave enough to point out how a few European families still own almost half of Mulanje and Thyolo or that they also give us projects where we can only buy products from their country or how they game the commodities market to keep us poor.
I mean even the debate was sponsored by the big guns, UK, US, Ireland and they were there in the front seats like kings. Imagine if China attempted to sponsor the event!
So, yes, Chinese projects are unfair in many ways and Chinese nationals are leading the plunder of our resources, but to say we are powerless or victims is a lie, they never forced us not did they come here by way of an invasion.
Lastly, while we examine the Chinese, we should not forget the Americans, and Brits and these white folks who have been fucking us since records begun.