BY BLESSED MHLANGA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa admitted on Wednesday that Zimbabwe is choking under Chinese debt, but said the southern African country would continue looking up to the Asian giant for bailout because of the good working relations between the two nations.
Addressing delegates after a tour of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport which is being refurbished courtesy of a US$153 million Chinese loan, Mnangagwa said his administration would continue banking on Chinese help despite accusations of blind brinkmanship and mortgaging the country’s natural resources in exchange for “murky” deals.
The Zanu PF leader said despite Zimbabwe being deep in debt and struggling to repay its loans, the Asian giant had continued to commit more financial resources to enable Harare achieve its economic and infrastructure development agenda.
“The President of China in spite of the status of the government of Zimbabwe’s indebtedness to several Chinese companies, which in principle would have constrained China to extend facilitation to further projects because of that indebtedness, President Xi Jinping made a political decision and granted three things, one was the Hwange (power generating unit) 7 and 8 which he said he was granting us a US$1,3 billion loan facility, the other was this one, the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, rehabilitation and modernisation, which he granted US$153 million and the third was the Parliament which we are building, but that is a grant,” Mnangagwa said.
“So when we say we express our profound gratitude to the People’s Republic of China under our comprehensive and strategic partnership framework, these are some of the acts they have done for our great country,” he said.
“This unwavering support remains a show of confidence which China has in our economic development trajectory, we are not worried about those who get angry because China has helped us,” Mnangagwa said.
Zimbabwe’s relationship with China dates back to the liberation war era, and continued after independence with the late former President Robert Mugabe adopting a Look East policy after his government was slapped with economic sanctions by the West over human rights violations and electoral fraud.
Chinese businesses, especially in the mining sector, have ballooned over the years amid reports of abuse of workers and serious environmental degradation, but most of the offences have gone unpunished.
Opposition parties and civil society groups have often accused government of signing opaque loan deals, mostly without parliamentary approval as required by the law.
Most of the deals are in exchange for the country’s mineral resources, with observers accusing Mnangagwa of mortgaging the country’s future to China.
Zimbabwe has also taken murky loans from the pan-African bank, Afrieximbank without going through Parliament.
Government is currently pushing to amend the Constitution to circumvent parliamentary oversight in all international debts.