By Kitsepile Nyathi | The East African
CHINA on Thursday handed over to Zimbabwe a new $100 million parliament building that Harare says is a symbol of deepening relations between the two countries.
The imposing structure on the outskirts of the capital Harare was built on a space of 33000 square metres and comprises a six-story office complex and a four-story building housing the National Assembly and Senate.
The two buildings are linked by three bridges on each floor and the National Assembly can accommodate 400 people while the Senate chamber has a capacity of 150 seats.
It also has conferencing facilities, 15 committee rooms, office space for staff and a car parking area.
Zimbabwe’s parliament described the building as a structure that “sits delicately on top of a hill, conjuring memories of the great Mutapa empire (a pre-colonial Zimbabwean kingdom), which was protected through the fortress on a hill.”
“The building competes well on an international scale, replete with modern features including incisive automatic firefighting machines, state of the art interpretation systems, automatic ramps for wheelchairs, cafeterias, world class broadcasting studios and offices,” Parliament said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa told guests at the handover ceremony that the new parliament building was “a symbol of progress and cooperation”.
“This marks a significant milestone in our enduring friendship with China,” Mnangagwa said.
“Over and above these projects, we have witnessed increased diplomatic and economic engagement between Zimbabwe and the People’s Republic of China.
“In addition, our country has seen many more Chinese companies investing in various sectors of the economy.
“The emergence of quality products from Zimbabwe, particularly citrus, entering the Chinese market is a welcome development.”
Over the last two decades, Zimbabwe has been leaning more towards China through its Look East Policy that was pushed by the late Robert Mugabe following the country’s isolation and sanctions by West countries over alleged human rights violations.
China has been extending concessionary loans for infrastructure development in the country and companies from the Asian country are investing heavily in Zimbabwe’s mining and agriculture sectors.
The Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe says trade between the two countries increased by 39.4 percent year to year to $2.43 billion between January and September this year, surpassing last year’s annual trade figures.
Zimbabwe exported $1.36 billion worth of goods to China and its imports from Beijing were $1.07 billion.
The new Parliament building, constructed by the Shanghai Construction Group, was fully funded by the Chinese government as “a gift to the people of Zimbabwe” and is located 18 kilometres from Harare’s central business district.
It is one of the signature infrastructure projects in Zimbabwe funded by China in recent years.
China has also extended loans worth billions of dollars to upgrade Zimbabwe’s two major airports, power stations and dams.