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Mugabe's Biggest Sin

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    Anglo-American and Chinese interests clash over Zimbabwe s strategic mineral wealth Mugabe s Biggest Sin By F. William Engdahl July 30, 2008
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 5, 2008
      Anglo-American and Chinese interests clash over Zimbabwe's strategic
      mineral wealth

      Mugabe's Biggest Sin
      By F. William Engdahl
      July 30, 2008

      Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe, presides over one of the
      world's richest minerals treasures, the Great Dyke region, which
      cuts a geological swath across the entire land from northeast to
      southwest. The real background to the pious concerns of the Bush
      Administration for human rights in Zimbabwe in the past several
      years is not Mugabe's possible election fraud or his expropriation
      of white settler farms. It is the fact that Mr. Mugabe has been
      quietly doing business, a lot of it, with the one country which has
      virtually unlimited need of strategic raw materials Zimbabwe can
      provide—China. Mugabe's Zimbabwe is, along with Sudan, on the
      central stage of the new war over control of strategic minerals of
      Africa between Washington and Beijing, with Moscow playing a
      supporting role in the drama. The stakes are huge.

      Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe is a very very bad man. This we
      all know from reading the newspapers or hearing the pronouncements
      of George W. Bush, earlier Britain's Tony Blair and more recently
      Gordon Brown. In their eyes he has sinned badly. They charge that he
      is a dictator; that he has expropriated, often with violence, the
      farms of whites as part of land reform; they claim he rigged his re-
      election by vote fraud and violence; that he has ruined the economy
      of Zimbabwe.

      Whether Robert Mugabe deserves to be in Washington's honor roll of
      villains alongside Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, Milosevic,
      Ahmadinejad, and Adolf Hitler, however, it is not the reason
      Washington and London have made Zimbabwe regime change priority
      number one for their Africa policy.

      What his sin is seems to have more to do with his attempts to get
      out from under Anglo-American neo-colonial serfdom dependency and to
      pursue a national economic development independent of the
      International Monetary Fund and World Bank. His real sin seems to be
      the fact that he has turned to the one nation that offers his
      government credits and soft loans for economic development with no
      strings attached—The Peoples' Republic of China.

      Western media accounts conveniently tend to omit the second major
      party to what is a huge tug of war between Anglo-American interests
      and China to get control of Zimbabwe's vast mineral wealth. We
      should keep in mind that for Washington there are always "good
      dictators" and "bad dictators." The difference is whether the given
      dictator serves US national interests or not. Mugabe clearly is in
      the latter category.

      Cecil Rhodes' legacy

      Zimbabwe is the name of what under the era of British Imperialism a
      century ago was named Rhodesia. The name Rhodesia came from the
      British imperial strategist and miner, Cecil Rhodes, founder of the
      Rhodes scholarships to Oxford, and author of a plan for a vast
      private African zone, to be chartered from the Queen of England,
      from Egypt to South Africa. Cecil Rhodes created the British South
      Africa Company, modeled on the East India Company, along with his
      partner, L. Starr Jameson of Jameson Raid notoriety, to exploit the
      mineral riches of Rhodesia. It controlled what was later named
      Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia-Nyasaland. The
      model was that the British Government would assume all risks to
      militarily defend Rhodes' looting while Rhodes and his London
      bankers, above all Lord Rothschild, who was a close associate, would
      assume all the gains of the business.

      Rhodes, a seasoned geologist, knew well that there was a remarkable
      geological fault running from the mouth of the Nile at the Gulf of
      Suez south through Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, down through today's
      Zimbabwe on to South Africa. Rhodes had already instigated several
      wars to gain control of the diamonds of Kimberly and the gold of
      Witwatersrand in South Africa. This geological phenomenon he, as
      well as enterprising German explorers, had discovered in the 1880's.
      They named it the Great Rift Valley.

      Rhodesia, like South Africa after the bloody Boer wars, was settled
      by white settlers to secure future minerals gains for allied
      interests of the City of London, mainly those of the powerful
      Oppenheimer family and their gold and diamond enterprises in the

      In 1962 when Africa was undergoing the wave of national liberation
      from colonial rule, a wave calculatedly supported by "non-colonial
      power" Washington, Rhodesia was one of the last bastions, along with
      former British colony South Africa, of white Apartheid rule. Whites
      in Rhodesia constituted only 1-2% of the total population so their
      methods of holding on to power were rather ruthless.

      White supremacist Prime Minister, Ian Smith, declared Rhodesian
      independence from Britain in 1965 rather than agree to the slightest
      compromise on race or power sharing with black nationalists. Britain
      got UN trade sanctions imposed to force Smith to buckle under.
      Despite sanctions, there was considerable support from conservative
      business interests in London. Britain's Tiny Rowland, head of the
      Lonrho mining conglomerate, secured the bulk of his African profits
      from Rhodesian copper mining and related ventures under the Smith
      regime. The City of London knew very well what riches lay in
      Rhodesia. The question was how to secure enduring control. Smith's
      Rhodesian backers had little interest in giving it all to London.

      Following a long and bloody struggle, in 1980 the leader of the
      black African Popular Front coalition, Robert Mugabe, overwhelmingly
      won election as the first Prime Minister of a new Zimbabwe. Twenty
      eight years later, the same Robert Mugabe is under escalating attack
      from the West, especially Zimbabwe's former colonial master,
      England, including strong economic sanctions designed to bring the
      country to the brink of collapse, to force him to open the economy
      to foreign (read Anglo-American and allied) investment. Ironically,
      the issue seems not all that different from the Ian Smith era:
      London and US control of the resources of the rich land, and
      Zimbabwean efforts to resist that control.

      The Great Dyke

      Within Zimbabwe, a portion of the rich Great Rift is called the
      Great Dyke, an intrusive geological treasure zone running over 530
      kilometers from the northeast to the southwest of the country, in
      places up to 12 kilometers wide. A river runs along the fault and
      the region is volcanically active. Here also lie vast deposits of
      chromium, of copper, platinum and other metals.

      The US State Department, as well as London, is aware of the vast
      minerals and other riches of Zimbabwe. It states in a recent report
      on Zimbabwe,

      "Zimbabwe is endowed with rich mineral resources. Exports of gold,
      asbestos, chrome, coal, platinum, nickel, and copper could lead to
      an economic recovery one day...The country is richly endowed with
      coal-bed methane gas that has yet to be exploited.

      With international attractions such as Victoria Falls, the Great
      Zimbabwe stone ruins, Lake Kariba, and extensive wildlife, tourism
      historically has been a significant segment of the economy and
      contributor of foreign exchange. The sector has contracted sharply
      since 1999, however, due to the country's declining international

      Energy Resources

      With considerable hydroelectric power potential and plentiful coal
      deposits for thermal power station, Zimbabwe is less dependent on
      oil as an energy source than most other comparably industrialized
      countries, but it still imports 40% of its electric power needs from
      surrounding countries--primaril y Mozambique. Only about 15% of
      Zimbabwe's total energy consumption is accounted for by oil, all of
      which is imported. Zimbabwe imports about 1.2 billion liters of oil
      per year. Zimbabwe also has substantial coal reserves that are
      utilized for power generation, and coal-bed methane deposits
      recently discovered in Matabeleland province are greater than any
      known natural gas field in Southern or Eastern Africa. In recent
      years, poor economic management and low foreign currency reserves
      have led to serious fuel shortages."

      In short, chrome, copper, gold, platinum, huge hydroelectric power
      potential and vast coal reserves are what is at stake for Washington
      and London in Zimbabwe. The country also has unverified reserves of
      uranium, something in big demand today for nuclear power generation.

      It is clear of late that so long as the tenacious Mugabe is running
      things, not the Anglo-Americans, but rather the Chinese, are
      Zimbabwe's preferred business partners. This seems to be Mugabe's
      greatest sin. He's not reading from the right program as George W.
      Bush's friends see it. His real sin seems to be turning East not
      West for economic and investment help.

      The Chinese connection

      During the Cold War China recognized and supported Robert Mugabe. In
      recent years as China's search for secure raw materials escalated
      its foreign diplomacy, relations have become stronger. According to
      the Chinese media, China has invested more in Zimbabwe than any
      other nation.

      Already back in July 2005 as Tony Blair turned the sanctions screws
      tighter on Zimbabwe, Mugabe flew to Beijing to meet with the top
      Chinese leadership, where he reportedly sought an emergency loan of
      US$1 billion and asked increased Chinese involvement in the economy.

      It began to bear fruit. In June 2006 state--owned Zimbabwean
      businesses signed a number of energy, mining and farming deals worth
      billions of dollars with Chinese companies. The largest was with
      China Machine-Building International Corporation, for a $1,3bn
      contract to mine coal and build thermal-power generators in
      Zimbabwe, to reduce Zimbabwe's electricity shortage. The Chinese
      company had already built thermal-power stations in Nigeria and
      Sudan, and had been involved in mining projects in Gabon.

      In 2007 the Chinese government donated farm machinery worth $25
      million to Zimbabwe, including 424 tractors and 50 trucks, as part
      of a $58 million loan to the Zimbabwean government. The Mugabe
      administration had previously seized white-owned farms and gave them
      to blacks, damaging machinery in the process. In return for the
      equipment and the loan the Zimbabwean government will ship 30
      million kilograms of tobacco to the People's Republic of China.

      Other Zimbabwe-China agreements included a deal between the Zimbabwe
      Mining Development and China's Star Communications, forming a joint
      venture to mine chrome, with funding from the China Development
      Bank. Zimbabwe also agreed to import road-building, irrigation and
      farming equipment from the China National Construction and
      Agricultural Machinery Import and Export Corporation and China Poly
      Group. Zimbabwe also relies on China for imports of
      telecommunications equipment, military hardware and many other
      critical items it can no longer import from the west because of the
      British-led sanctions.

      Relations have become so important that Zimbabwe's police have a
      dedicated "China desk" to protect Chinese interests in the country.

      In April 2007 the chairman of China's top political advisory body,
      Jia Qinglin, head of the National Committee of the Chinese Peoples'
      Political Consultative Conference, flew to Harare to meet with
      Mugabe. It was a follow-up to the 2006 Beijing China-Africa
      Cooperation Summit where the Chinese government invited the heads of
      more than 40 African states to discuss relations. Africa has become
      a diplomatic and economic priority for China and its economy.

      At that time, Beijing got an open invitation to help develop dormant
      mines in the country. The deputy speaker of Zimbabwe's parliament
      called for more Chinese investment in the country's mining sector,
      according to China's Xinhua news agency. Zimbabwe's mining laws were
      changed to allow the government to reallocate mining claims that
      were not being exploited.

      Mining generates half of Zimbabwe's export revenue. It is the only
      sector in the country that still has foreign investors after the
      collapse of the main agricultural sector. Western companies with
      mining claims in Zimbabwe were not exploiting them. "We would appeal
      to the Chinese government to come in full force to exploit these
      minerals," Zimbabwean Deputy Parliamentary Speaker, Kumbirai Kangai
      said to the official Xinhua.

      Kangai assured potential Chinese investors that they would not
      expose themselves to legal action if they took over claims held by
      Western companies.

      A few months after, in December 2007, Chinese company, Sinosteel
      Corporation, acquired 67 percent stake in Zimbabwe's leading
      ferrochrome producer and exporter Zimasco Holdings. Zimasco Holdings
      is the fifth largest high carbonated ferrochrome producer in the
      world. It used to produce 210,000 tons of high-carbon ferrochrome
      per year, nearly all of it along the mineral-rich Great Dyke,
      accounting for 4 percent of global ferrochrome production.

      Zimasco has also the world's second largest reserves of chrome,
      after South Africa. It was formerly owned by Union Carbide
      Corporation, now part of Dow Chemicals Corp.

      Oh, oh! Alarm bells went ringing in London and in Washington at that

      China clearly views Africa as a central part of its strategic plan,
      most notably for its oil reserves and vital raw materials such as
      copper, chrome, nickel. The continent is also at the same time
      becoming an important region for Chinese manufactured exports. But
      the raw materials battle is at the heart, and the real reason by all
      accounts, why Washington recently decided to form a separate Africa
      Command in the Pentagon.

      Controlling China's economic emergence is an un-stated strategic
      priority of United States foreign and military policy and has been
      since before September 11, 2001. The only delicate point in the
      business is the fact that China, with well over $1.7 trillions of
      foreign exchange reserves, most believed in form of US Treasury
      securities, could trigger a complete dollar panic and further
      collapse of the US economy should she decide for political reasons
      it were too risky to continue holding its hundreds of billions of US
      dollar debt. In effect, by buying US Government debt with its trade
      surpluses, China has been indirectly financing US policies counter
      to Chinese national interest such as the Iraq war, or even the $100
      million or so annually that Condi Rice's State Department spends on

      China is refusing to play by the rules of the Anglo-American neo-
      colonial game. It does not seek IMF or World Bank approval before
      dealing with African countries. It makes soft loans, regardless who
      might be running the country. In this it does nothing different from
      Washington or London. The Chinese see American influence in Africa
      less entrenched than in the rest of the world, thus offering unique
      opportunities for China to pursue its economic interests.

      It may or may not be cynical. It may be Realpolitik. If it results
      in the ability of certain African countries to use China as a
      political counterweight to the one-sided Anglo-American domination
      of the Continent, that itself could be a major benefit to Africans
      depending on how they use it.

      Clearly, it has been extremely positive for Chinese access to vital
      economic minerals for its economy as well as oil from places such as
      Darfur and southern Sudan, or Nigeria.

      Mineral wealth has once more put Africa on center stage of a battle
      for mineral riches between East and West. This time, unlike during
      the Cold War era, however, Beijing is playing with far more assets,
      and Washington with far less.

      F. William Engdahl is author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil
      Politics and the New World Order (Pluto Press), and Seeds of
      Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation



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