Zimbabwe has seen a surge in millions of dollars of Chinese investment in formerly white-owned tobacco farms. At least five farms in Mashonaland Central, a region to the north-west of Harare, that was traditionally one of the country’s best tobacco-producing areas, have attracted Chinese investment. Confident President Mugabe’s policy of strengthening ties with China will offer a degree of protection, they have poured money into machinery and are taking advice from international experts.
China is now the largest investor in Zimbabwe, a country whose economy is still reeling from the land seizures of 2000 and hyperinflation, and has taken a nosedive once again. Unemployment is at around 90% and the government is so short of money that it cannot pay teachers or civil servants.
White farmers who were evicted from their farms have moved abroad or live hand-to-mouth, waiting for promised compensation. A local farmer in Myurwi has said that there are now plenty of jobs in the district after years of difficulties following the departure of the white landowners due to the Chinese investors.
Industry experts believe that the five Chinese-run farms will grow and cure about 1,500 acres of tobacco this year, despite their limited experience. A tobacco industry insider said the Chinese company would be paying a percentage of the income from the tobacco as a hefty rental fee for the land they are now using to the “political” men who now own the farms. He also added that some of that rental should be shared with the white farmers who had to leave their farms with nothing and received no compensation from the government.