Zambia: Down with the Exploitation by Foreign Powers!

Joint Statement of the Economic Liberation Association (Zambia) and the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, 18.08.2017, www.elazambia.org and www.thecommunists.net

 

 

 

1.            We regard the conflict between China and India as a dispute between two emerging and reactionary capitalistic oppressive powers in the political and economic sense. While their development as capitalist powers are at different stages, they both act as oppressors against the Zambian people. Both China and India have carved out a significant part of the Zambian economy between themselves. Indeed, the rivalry between China and India goes beyond the localized border disputed in the Sikkim region (which we roundly condemn bearing in mind that the people of that region have interest in such disputes which only divide and deprive them). The China-India rivalry is also being waged, perhaps more viciously in their economic territories and markets abroad, and Africa and Zambia in particular, is one of those battle grounds as follows:

 

2.            HISTORIC BACKGROUND: EMERGENCE OF THE INDIAN PETTY BOURGEOISIE IN ZAMBIA. India, and very small Indian minority in general have been in Zambia longer than their Chinese rivals; having been in Zambia since 1905 when they once served the British colonial establishment mostly as skilled artisans or businesspeople. Indeed, the Indians did suffer from British oppression too, though their suffering was more on economic grounds than racial grounds. However, what is important to note is that the Indians were always a petty-bourgeoisie class, a separatist class more inclined to be a merchant trading clan with very strong motherland allegiance, caste, social, economic and racial and religious ties.

 

The bourgeois and petty-bourgeois Indian Diaspora have always preferred financial independence from the early days, to be self-reliant merchants than to serve as employees in the British colonial bureaucracy as the Africans did, and still do today. As a result, when the British ceded power in 1964 (politically that is) not economically, the Indian capitalists' instinct was unleashed as the economic fetters and trading restrictions that were once imposed on them by British white supremacy were greatly diminished. Though their numbers were quite negligible at the time, their dominance in trade was immediately felt by the new UNIP regime, and therefore, limits on capital holdings, land acquisitions and industries in which private capital could enter were limited to protect the Zambian state from being overrun by capitalists both from within and from abroad.

 

3.            DOMINATION OF THE ZAMBIAN ECONOMY BY THE INDIAN MERCHANT CLASS: 1991 was the year when global Stalinist bloc fell, and with it all the protectionist measures that had curtailed capitalism in independent African states for a long time. The door was open to full throttle capitalism, and while the British and Americans (Anglo-America Corporation) won back and retained their monopoly and domination of the largest share of the Zambian economy and foreign exchange earner - the mining industry, the Indians captured their share of whatever was left of the local manufacturing and import/export trade.

 

4.            INDIA IN MANUFACTURING, TRADING AND FINANCE: with the fall of the UNIP regime which strived to advance Zambia's independence, the Indian bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie seized the initiative with the capital reserves they were notoriously known to launder outside the existing banking system which had restrictions of the socialist regulated monetary system. Thus with the entry of liberalization, the Indians quickly graduated from inconspicuous law-abiding shop keepers, to major untouchable and unmatchable economic players in the local consumable products manufacturing and import-export trade (a sector they hold a monopoly over to this day). Overnight, they literally became the new 'Trade Kings' (real Indian company) and undisputed super-grocers/merchants with interests in the Finance industry were they established the Indo-Zambia Bank and Finance Bank; banks which still serve Indian commercial interests to this day.

 

5.            INDIANS IN MINING: The Indian bourgeoisie did not stop with manufacturing and commerce. With the mining privatization program reaching its climax in the period 1997 - 2001, the Indians secured for themselves a copper mine which the Anglo American giants left over, and thus Indians entered the mining industry by acquiring Baluba Mines in Zambia's Copperbelt province. It was at Baluba mines where Indian capitalism and exploitation first exposed its ugly head when Zambian workers went on strike because of poor wages and lack of safety equipment. The mine was later shut down and declared not viable by Indian management. But that was not the end of India in mining.

 

In 2002, Anglo-American Corporation withdrew its investment from its copper mining asset, Konkola Copper Mines KCM, and it was some Indian venture capitalist named Anil Agarwal, owner of Vedanta Holdings India Inc. who bought KCM for a pittance - 20 million US dollars when the mine was worth far much more. Since then, KCM, more than any other mining company has always been embroiled in and associated with worker abuse, tax evasion, water and air pollution scandals as the mine continues to make year-on-year profits while the Indian owners claim it is making losses to avoid taxes.

 

6.            INDIANS IN TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Today there is no doubt that India and the Indian community are an exclusively wealthy class with many Indians streaming into Zambia to set up shop in many sectors. The most recent sector to fall to the Indian bourgeoisie is telecommunications, with two of the three largest telecoms companies virtually under Indian control (Bharti Airtel and MTN Zambia). In addition many of the telecoms operations have been subcontracted out to exploitative Indian companies like ISON BPO and Tech Mahindra which are all in the embroiled labour abuses as ELA reported in its press statement only two weeks ago. Indian corruption of course has silenced the matter, but the exploitation of the working class in Zambia continues to heighten tensions between the Indians community and Indigenous Zambians.

 

7.            INDIANS IN REAL ESTATE, PHARMACEUTICALS, AGRICULTURE AND MOTOR INDUSTRY: Indians have dominated the real estate housing and property business. The irony and paradox is that Zambians tenants to a foreign class; they are now renting homes which have either been bought off them in the first place, or built by Indians on land bought off from Zambians again. The largest and luxurious homes in Zambians are not owned by Zambians, but are owned by Indians! Pharmaceutical Industry: 9 out of every 10 medical wholesale and retail stores is owned by the Indians. With many drug products and medical equipment being imported from mainland India. Textiles, Motor vehicles (Tata Motors) and even the lucrative maize growing business have witnessed an influx of Indian commercial interests. In addition, the first ever copper processing plant has been established in Zambia and it is built by and owned by Indian capital (and Zambian exploited labour of course).

 

8.            SUMMARY OF INDIANS: THE RICHEST MINORITY CLASS IN ZAMBIA: It is not clear how much wealth the Indians possess collectively, but it can be said for sure that the Indian capitalist class in Zambia, though being less than 0.1% of the population, do possess far much more money and assets than the entire Zambian population of 17 million plus people put together, and the gap of this inequality continues to grow unabated.

 

ENTER CHINESE IMPERIALISM/CAPITALISM

 

9.            CHINA IN MINING: China as an economic power in Zambia came to the fore after the acceleration of the deregulation and liberalization of the Zambian economy during the privatization of the mines in which China became the second largest player in the mining industry. China acquired Chambeshi Copper Mines (CCM) and China Non-Ferrous (NFC); including an explosive manufacturing company (Bilgrim International) which catastrophically exploded in 2009 killing over 50 Zambian workers. The cause was obviously the well-know Chinese poor safety record; of which that same poor record of safety and worker abuse continues today with the most recent scandal being exploitation of Workers at Mamba Coal Mines in which one Zambian was shot by a Chinese foreman. The issue? Workers protested over six months of unpaid wages! China has steadily continued to push its investments in mining, but still plays second place to the western mining cartel led by American, British, Canadian and Australian mining investments.

 

10.          CHINA IN CONSTRUCTION/INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT: China totally dominates the construction industry in Africa, and Zambia in particular. Much of the road construction and infrastructure expansion programs for schools, hospitals, airports, bridges etc is dominated by China. The biggest building material suppliers and suppliers of Agricultural equipment are undisputedly Chinese.

 

11.          CHINA IN MEDIA AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS: China recently acquired a majority (52%) stake in the nation's public broadcaster ZNBC (Zambian National Broadcasting Corporation) at a cost of over 220 million US dollars. All revenue flows from the broadcaster will go to China and the deal is valid for the next 20 years subject to renewal. In addition, China has been awarded the contract to manage the digital migration from analogue to digital TV through a 'TOPSTAR AGREEMENT', where the Chinese subsidiary of Chinese state media company CNBC will supply all equipment and technological support for the transition while reaping millions of dollars in the process...for the next 20 years. The public broadcaster has been privatized to China!

 

In addition Chinese telecoms giant Huwawei, is also making inroads in the telecom industry as it is the major support and technical service provider to the Zambian owned telecoms company ZAMTEL. Further, 99% of Chinese mobile telecoms products have a market in Zambia.

 

12.          CHINA IN AGRICULTURE: Probably the second largest commercial land owners for agriculture purposes at the moment in Zambia are the Chinese settlers who closely follow the traditional white settler farming community. An immigration report of 2015 indicated an entry of over 2,000 Chinese workers, on top of the already resident 20,000 plus. The result is that many Zambian farmers, in poultry and vegetable products etc. have been driven out of business and the market, and relegated to retail sellers of Chinese farm products. Supply of Agriculture equipment and heavy industry machine tools has also been dominated by China, and the workers record in these farms is just as bad as ever.

 

13.          CHINA IN BANKING AND FINANCE: Aside from the IMF, World Bank and EU money lenders, China has extended the biggest loans to Zambia; most of them being in infrastructure development. It is chiefly due to these China loans that the Zambian political elite have been captured, swallowed and hopelessly susceptible to Chinese corruption, to the extent that when over 20 Chinese were caught carrying out illegal copper smelting activities these year, the government promptly released the culprits and never brought legal proceedings against them. All Chinese commercial export/import trade and lending to Chinese entrepreneurs is facilitated by the Bank of China which has branches in Zambia. It must be mentioned that Zambia has literally no commercial bank of its own participating in the banking industry. The Zambian banking industry is dominated by foreign capital - all of it, with the lone exception of the Central Bank...which in many ways is still beholden to external IMF dictates.

 

14.          All said, China's investment portfolio in Zambia which is estimated to be above 5 billion US dollars (a little over the Zambian 2017 National Budget) can very easily put the Chinese capitalist class ahead of their Indian counterparts in terms of wealth comparison, notwithstanding that the Indians have been trading in Zambia for decades before China ever entered the fray.

 

15.          ELA and RCIT denounce Chinese imperialism and Indian expansionism as enemy forces for the working class and the poor peasants in Zambia and the whole of Africa. We will continue to fight for the liberation of the workers and oppressed in Zambia, in Africa, in China and India as well as globally!

 

* Long Live the Socialist World Revolution!

 

* For the liberation of the oppressed workers and peasants everywhere!

 

* For the establishment of workers socialist states everywhere!

 

* For the achievement of an economically liberated Africa and Zambia! For a new, and better world for all!

 

 

 

We refer readers to another joint statement of ELA (Zambia) and the RCIT which deals with the conflict between China and India in Asia:

 

RCIT and ELA (Zambia): There is No Progressive Camp in the China-India Border Conflict! Neither Beijing nor Delhi! Down with Chauvinism and Expansionism! 18.08.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/china-india-conflict/

 

Furthermore, the RCIT has published an extensive pamphlet about the China-India Border Conflict and its background:

Michael Pröbsting: The China-India Conflict: Its Causes and Consequences
What are the background and the nature of the tensions between China and India in the Sikkim border region? What should be the tactical conclusions for Socialists and Activists of the Liberation Movements?
18 August 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/china-india-rivalry/