Thursday, July 28, 2005

Follow the money...


Zimbabwe finds a steady backer in Beijing

By Richard Spencer

July 28, 2005

Zimbabwe has won trade, aid and sympathy from China as President Robert Mugabe was given a warm welcome to Beijing.

Mr Mugabe and his opposite number, Hu Jintao, signed an economic and technical co-operation agreement. Details were not released but a Zimbabwean spokesman had earlier said that his country was seeking lines of credit.

Chinese media said that Beijing had agreed in principle to finance construction of a power plant and had sold a civilian aircraft to Harare.

Mr Mugabe, whose regime is under international attack for the violent clearance of shantytowns, thanked Beijing for its aid over the past 25 years.

Mr Mugabe, who is on a six-day visit to China, has been greeted as "an old friend" by President Hu Jintao.

At the same time, Britain was calling for a Security Council meeting on the slum demolition campaign. UN chief Kofi Annan has ruled out a visit to Zimbabwe until Harare ends the evictions and allows humanitarian aid in.

Council members said Harare's campaign of razing shantytowns had left 700,000 people destitute and affected a further 2.4 million. But there was no consensus on holding formal consultations.

Diplomats said China, one of the few countries to publicly back Mr Mugabe's drive to demolish illegal housing, was one of the countries that expressed reluctance to have a formal debate.

Mr Mugabe has already bought 12 fighter jets, 100 military vehicles and two airliners from China this year and been given another aircraft and eight military trainer jets as a gift.

He says his Look East policy had been forced upon him by the refusal of Western partners to respond to his economic problems. Inflation in Zimbabwe is in triple figures, unemployment is at 70 per cent and the country has heavy foreign debts.

A report written recently by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, an academic and the head of Johannesburg-based Africa Fighting Malaria, directly links Chinese investment with Zimbabwe's township clearance program.

"Speculation over the motives … has pointed to the removal of local competition threatening newly arrived Chinese businessmen whose stores sell cheap and often poor quality goods," said the report for the American Enterprise Institute.

(The AEI is a washington based conservative think tank)

It estimated that up to 10,000 Chinese citizens had moved into the country under the Look East policy, some moving on to tobacco farms confiscated under Mr Mugabe's "land reform" policies. China has expressed public support for Zimbabwe's reforms....

to be continued next post...

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