China this week launched an unusual attack on a senior Zimbabwean journalist, Tawanda Majoni, accusing him of corruption and harbouring political ambitions over a recent article he wrote on the return of Anjin Investments Ltd to mine diamonds in Marange.
But the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), in a statement on Thursday, came out guns blazing and described the response by the Chinese embassy as “ominous”, “unwarranted” and capable to “inflame the persecution” of Majoni who runs a free weekly column on corruption in one of the local newspapers.
In his latest article last Sunday, Majoni queried the secretive readmission of Anjin, which was booted out of the diamond fields by the late ex-president Robert Mugabe in 2016 together with six other companies for allegedly looting gems worth billions of dollars.
The journalist, who is also the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT), a non-profit media advocacy institution currently supporting reporters to investigate corruption, questioned government’s decision to readmit Anjin without availing the audit it promised in 2016.
He argued that the Chinese government pressured Zimbabwe to take Anjin back, following a visit to Beijing by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2018.
Polite Kambamura, Zimbabwe’s Mines deputy minister, in an interview with the Bloomberg early last year, insinuated that Chinese pressure led to the readmission of Anjin.
“Anjin was brought back because of an agreement with the Chinese government. We had to bring them back for public relations reasons,” Kambamura was quoted by Bloomberg as saying.
Anjin made a silent comeback as early as the first quarter of 2019, but resumed ground operations towards the end of the year.
Mnangagwa recently officially commissioned the Anjin project, which is running alongside a merger, the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) that was set up when the licences of the previous seven miners were revoked.
Anjin is a joint venture between Matt Bronze, which is linked to the Zimbabwean army, and Anhui Foreign Economic Construction, a Chinese firm suspected to be linked to the Asian country’s military.
The Chinese statement that was attributed to a nameless embassy spokesperson refuted the claim that Beijing had demanded Anjin’s return and launched a personal attack on Majoni over his opinion article.
“The piece (article) is full of unfounded accusations, conjectures and sheer lies, proving nothing but an appalling lack of commonsense and self-confidence.
“The only motive for cooking up these absurdly far-stretched claims is to attract attention, sow discord in China-Zimbabwe bilateral friendly relations, and drag China into Zimbabwe’s internal affairs, all serving the author’s (Majoni’s) own hidden political agenda.