• Kev Thomas Writes

Chinese Natural Resource Exploitation in Zimbabwe

Below the attached map is a Press Release from the Bhejane Trust in Zimbabwe. It's self explanatory and adequately shows how the Chinese are ruthlessly exploiting Zimbabwe's natural resources. Just as they're doing throughout much of Africa. What's worrying here, is the deafening silence from many global wildlife conservation bodies.

Hwange National Park is one of Africa's most iconic national parks, with a rich history and sound track record in wildlife conservation. The Chinese though, don't want to leave it alone. They've already been causing mayhem by ignoring the pleas of conservation bodies, and in cahoots with the Zimbabwe government have been capturing baby elephant within the park and exporting them to China. As a conservationist it sickens me to even attempt to imagine the life those elephant are destined for in China. Elephant belong in Africa, and nowhere else.

The latest is Chinese companies conducting 'exploratory' drilling for coal inside Hwange National Park. Seemingly the permit(s) have been issued from the highest authority in the land. Meaning the President's office. What is worrying, is will this now set a precedent? Are we to witness similar in Mana Pools National Park and the Gonarezhou National Park? Surely, there should be an international outcry when national parks are so blatantly exploited by a handful of greedy corrupt officials. Imagine, something similar happening in a national park in the US or the UK. It wouldn't be allowed, Full stop.

Why is it we're scared to criticise African leadership when they fail their people and their responsibilities as government? Zimbabwe's ZANU PF government is one of the most corrupt and crooked on the African sub-continent. The country is also now a satellite state of China's, probably China's first true satellite state in Southern Africa. Both China and Zimbabwe will vigorously deny this. During the so called Zimbabwe War of Liberation (known to us as the Rhodesian Bush War), ZANU was supported and sponsored by China. The ZANU military wing ZANLA obtained all of their military hardware from China and its surrogate states. Unfortunately the ZANU leadership failed to recognise, or as was more likely, chose to ignore that there'd ultimately be a time when they'd have to settle their debt with China. The debt settling came about shortly after Zimbabwe's independence in April 1980. It wasn't too long thereafter before the Chinese began arriving to claim payback. Payback by way of China demanding access to Zimbabwe's many natural resources, minerals and hardwoods alike, the removal of which is now more akin to plundering than sustained yield.

Recolonisation is probably a more apt description, because that's exactly what's happened and even the many Zimbabweans living in abject poverty know it. The Chinese are there to stay, and as usual their partners in the ongoing plunder of the country's resources are corrupt individuals within the ZANU PF government, the tentacles of corruption reaching right into the office of the president himself. Sadly, and once the Chinese are established inside Hwange National Park the elephant and other species will be under threat like never before. And, if we're to see similar permits being issued for 'exploratory' drilling in Mana Pools National Park, and in the Gonarezhou, it'll be the death knell for Zimbabwe's wildlife, and in time these iconic African big game sanctuaries will be nothing more than a distant memory. It's a great pity the anti-hunting community don't focus their energies on crusading against what the Chinese and ZANU PF are up too, rather than continue to hound well regulated sustainable yield sport hunting.

Coal Mining in Hwange

Our Rhino Monitoring team recently found some Chinese in Hwange Park – we managed to ascertain they were drilling core samples for coal. Parks arrested them and turned them over to the Police. However, they soon reappeared with a permit giving them the right to carry on in the Park with exploratory drilling. They did this without any consultation with the Area Management and seem to feel they have a right to go wherever they like. We followed this up and discovered Government has allocated two coal mining concessions in the middle of Sinamatella and Robins. The mining concessions are Special Grants which apparently can only be issued by the President, and both have been granted to Chinese companies. A company called SustiGlobal have subsequently sent us Stakeholders Questionnaire forms. One map shows the coal mining concession SG7263 that incorporates Deteema Dam and Masuma Dam, out to a company called Afrochine Energy of the Tsingashan Group of China. We are not certain to whom else the questionnaire have been sent and the questionnaires are not dated. The questionnaires are for an EIA for the concessions but only to cover exploratory drilling and opening of roads, building camps, etc. It appears the concession was promulgated in late 2019. The other concession granted, SG 5756 to the Zimbabwe Zhonoxin Coal Mining Group has also contracted SustiGlobal to do an EIA, again, with an undated Stakeholders Questionnaire, and again to cover the initial exploratory drilling and opening of roads, building camps, etc. However, they have started exploratory work in the Park, so it is not sure if an EIA permit has been granted or not. Bhejane Trust has replied to the questionnaire and waits to hear back from SustiGlobal. We will be ready to support National Parks where required.

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