At a campaign rally last week, Zimbabwe’s President Mnangagwa praised China’s assistance to the southern African nation, offering a glimpse into the importance of friendly relations between the two sides – arguably the most important for the latter after being a pariah in the West for over two decades.
As he touched on foreign affairs and international relations as part of his campaign address, Mnangagwa pointed to the difficult relations with Western countries that have imposed sanctions on the country.
For 23 years the USA, European Union and their allies have maintained sanctions on Zimbabwe, wrought as punishment for embarking on the land reform programme in 2000.
The sanctions resulted in the suspension of balance of payment support, disinvestment, travel restrictions, market restrictions and exclusion from global financing.
Sanctions, which stifle the economy, are largely understood to have been imposed to squeeze the populace into an uprising to topple the ruling Zanu-PF from power.
However, this has not been achieved. Nor attempts at “re-engaging” succeeded.
China came in to support Zimbabwe through becoming an alternative economic centre, benefactor and bulwark following Zimbabwe’s adoption of the Look East Policy in 2003.
China and Zimbabwe had enjoyed traditional friendly relations.
The relations have gone further.
President Mnangagwa’s address at the weekend showed deep contrast between Western countries and China – Zimbabwe’s biggest ally.
China has elevated itself to a significant position and continuously shows how seriously it treats its relations with Harare, a comprehensive strategic partner.
This is well requited, naturally.
“When l visited the country of China, their president who is my friend gave us a free grant to build our Parliament,” the Zimbabwean leader related.
The majestic new Parliament building, which is at the centre of a new city being constructed outside Harare, was built using grants from China.
He further referred to China’s input in the country’s energy sector, after undertaking thermal and hydropower projects in Zimbabwe.
Two units at the Hwange Thermal Power Station, upgraded by China, have contributed a further 700 MW and eased power shortages that had dogged the country.
The total amount of electricity produced by the Hwange Power Station reached 740MW as a result.
China is also involved in the expansion of a hydropower facility known as the Kariba South Hydro Project; on the Zambezi River at the border with Zambia.
“China’s support in the construction and modernization of our power infrastructure has been instrumental in alleviating electricity shortages and powering our nation’s industries,” President Mnangagwa stated.
High quality investments by China have not only brought considerable foreign exchange earnings and tax revenues but also technology transfers but also ensured quality service delivery critical in enhancing medical research and training programs.
These have had a positive impact on the nation’s healthcare sector.
“The support from China has significantly improved our capacity to respond to health challenges and has helped in saving numerous lives. We are immensely grateful for their generous contributions,” President Mnangagwa said.
China-Zimbabwe relations have achieved fruitful results and are facing important opportunities if current cooperation initiatives are to be used as yardsticks.
Continued bilateral cooperation strengthened on the basis of time-honoured friendships has resulted in common development and prosperity for all.
China has assisted Zimbabwe in high-quality key infrastructural developmental projects which has seen investment running into billions of dollars.
Recently, President Mnangagwa commissioned Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe’s US$300 million lithium processing plant at the Arcadia hard-rock lithium mine.
With abundant opportunities for job creation, the plant has the capacity to process 4.5 million metric tons of hard rock lithium into concentrate for export per year.
Furthermore, China recently sponsored the expansion of the new airport facility at the Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
Such projects, hugely beneficial to the Zimbabwean populace are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), focusing on infrastructure development, investment, trade and other key dimensions to uplift the global economy, with the developing world at the centre.
President Xi Jinping introduced the initiative 10 years ago as a transcontinental passage that sought to link the world.
Presently reaping huge rewards for Africa, the initiative defines five major priorities, namely policy coordination; infrastructure connectivity; unimpeded trade; financial integration; and connecting people.
In Zimbabwe, BRI has manifested in large programmes of investments in infrastructure development for roads, railways and airports, as well as power plants and telecommunications net.