China is making big investments in South Africa, and the latest investment in the Eastern Cape is a concern for some.
A Chinese delegation of business people from the Zhejiang region of the country has just completed their finishing work in the Eastern Cape to sign a deal for a huge port development project.
The Port of Port St. Johns was visited by the Chinese province’s governor, Yuan Jiajun as well as visits to East London and Coega area near Port Elizabeth.
The visit, which was initially aimed at improving trade relations, apparently gave rise to possible new developments that will take place in the area.
Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane has warned the Chinese that if they want to do business in the Eastern Cape they will have to accept the province is not for sale.
His strong words come in the wake of mounting fears among the public that the Chinese are seeking to take advantage of the country’s resources as a further extension of their business interests on the African continent, where more than 10,000 Chinese firms are doing business.
These concerns have heightened in the province where a Chinese delegation, led by China’s ambassador to SA, Lin Songtian, has been in talks with the provincial government over the proposed development of the Port St Johns harbour and possible projects in Qholorha and Hamburg.
Chinese companies already have a noticeable footprint in the province, where plans are in place to build 50,000 cars annually at Coega outside Port Elizabeth and agreements are being made with Chinese mining concerns. About 10,000 Chinese live in the province, China consul-general Kang Yong told an Eastern Cape-China conference in 2018.
China is currently under some fire from the West, which is nervous that Chinese lending for large-scale infrastructure projects is leaving Africa with unsustainable debt burdens.
Mabuyane was clearly aware of these fears as he addressed a press conference in Mthatha soon after a meeting with the Chinese delegation on Wednesday.
“South Africa is not for sale. This country cannot be sold out to anyone.
“All the talks are happening in the context of development.
“The government is regulating investment of anyone. We are not selling the country out,” Mabuyane insisted.
“We have a vigilant government, all the development is happening under strict government policies. That is why we avoid fake investors.
“We cannot allow all that, but we want to ensure that there is development.
“That is why we ensure that there are bilateral agreements between the presidents of both countries, China and South Africa,” he said.
Mabuyane railed against ideas being floated by controversial Botswana businessman Kealeboga Gift Mogapi, who has proposed establishing a R7trillion AmaMpondo City in Port St Johns, touted as a city as striking as Dubai with skyscrapers, a harbour, an airport and a state-of-the-art shopping malls.
Mogapi has already won over AmaMpondo AseNyandeni King Ndamase Ndamase, but is yet to present a pitch to Mabuyane’s government.
“We cannot sleep and in the morning read about somebody talking about trillions to invest in developing a city around Nyandeni. It cannot just happen in a country like ours, a country that is governed by laws,” said Mabuyane.
But while Mabuyane made a show of drawing a line in the sand in terms of how business would be conducted with the Chinese, he provided information on what their proposals were for the Eastern Cape.
Mabuyane said the Chinese were looking at building a small harbour in Port St Johns and developing agro-processing industries to assist in the development of tourism and the ocean economy, not only in Port St Johns but in the eastern part of the province as well.
“We need to catch up when it comes to development strategy. We are quite happy that in the last few days we have been talking about economic development which resonates well with our plans of focus.” He said the country had not developed small harbours for decades.
Eastern Cape political scientist Dr Somadoda Fikeni told the Dispatch there was no question China was positioning itself to take over the global economy.
“With the US-China trade war, countries that position themselves well to attract Chinese investment will be in a good position because they will benefit from China.”
On the issue of countries that have found themselves indebted to China, Fikeni said: “Those are little countries with little bargaining power and countries which often depend on foreign aid rather than have their own economy. That is why these countries have struggled and had key assets seized.
“SA is a member of Brics [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] and we’re serving two years in the security council, and it’s unlikely that we would be in the same situation as Zambia.”