… Beijing rebuffs snooping reports

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THE Chinese embassy has dismissed reports that the primary reason it is financing construction of the new US$100 million parliament in Mt Hampden is to snoop on Zimbabwe, but rather to deepen “democracy and good governance”.

TINASHE KAIRIZA

This comes in the wake of allegations levelled against Beijing after it constructed the African Union (AU) headquarters in Ethiopia at a cost of US$200 million in 2012.

A French publication in 2014 reported that to buttress its growing commercial and political interests in Africa, the Chinese had bugged the newly AU building.

However, then AU Commissioner Mousa Faki dismissed the allegations, saying they were meant to weaken the solid relations between Africa and Beijing.

Last week, the Zimbabwe Independent reported on the construction of the parliament set to be completed in 2021, sparking debate on social media. Some opinion writers alleged Harare was mortgaging minerals to Beijing which was also setting a debt trap for the country.

Deputy Chinese ambassador Zhao Baogang said: “We have also provided a US$100 million grant to construct Zimbabwe’s new parliament building. This is the biggest China-aided project in Southern Africa and this project was at the request of the Government of Zimbabwe.

“It is meant to support good governance and democracy. We hope that our aid can be appreciated because it is in the spirit of cooperation between China and Zimbabwe. It is a free grant, but there are people who are saying Zimbabwe is mortgaging its minerals to Zimbabwe. This is entirely not true.”

Baogang said reports that China would bug the parliament were baseless.

“If we put bugs, it can easily be detected and this would destroy relations,” Baogang said.

He said although Beijing had advanced Harare loans for infrastructure, energy and agricultural development, the loans were not designed to trap the country but to assist at a time of need and ensure development.

“Even in China we borrow from banks including European banks to fund infrastructure development and then pay off our loans. There is nothing wrong with loans,” he said.

“But you cannot say Zimbabwe is in a debt trap because of China. Zimbabwe has a foreign debt of about US$8 billion. Most of it is from multilateral institutions and the Paris Club not China.”

Baogang said reports that Harare was mortgaging its minerals in return for Chinese loans were false.
“Not even a single kilogramme has been mortgaged,” he said.

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