Mugabe intensifies ‘Look East’ drive

PRESIDENT Mugabe vowed on Wednesday to forge stronger ties with China, saying the Asian giant had emerged as a key force in his government’s efforts to revive an ailing economy.



elvetica, sans-serif”>Mugabe, estranged from the West mainly over his controversial drive to seize white-owned farms to give to landless blacks, has over the past several years sought to strengthen economic ties with African, Asian and Muslim countries under what he calls a “Look East” drive.


On Wednesday Mugabe put into service two of three 52-seater aircraft bought from China to boost Zimbabwe’s meagre fleet. These are expected to fly the domestic tourism routes.


“Today’s ceremony … gives further expression to our efforts to turn around our economy (and) is symbolic of our resolve to foster even stronger ties with our friends (in) China who have always supported our cause,” Mugabe said.

“Today we rejoice that China is steadily becoming the largest foreign investor in Zimbabwe while certainly growing as one of our largest trading partners,” he added.


The MA60 planes were manufactured by Chinese firm AVIC 1, part of a state-owned group that produces more than 1 000 military and passenger aircraft a year. Zimbabwe officials have not said how much the planes cost. The third plane has not been delivered yet.


Mugabe, in power since Independence from Britain in 1980, denies critics’ charges that his government’s policies, including the land seizures, have destroyed a once-booming economy, leading to chronic fuel shortages and, of late, frequent water and electricity supply cuts in urban areas.


The veteran leader argues that domestic and foreign opponents of his land reforms, led by Britain, have deliberately sought to sabotage the economy. — Reuter.

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