ZIMBABWE – “Let’s patiently wait for the good news,” Chinese Ambassador Huang Ping told a press conference in Harare Friday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is due in Harare on December 1 at the invitation of President Robert Mugabe who is keen to see so-called mega deals he discussed in Beijing last August implemented to help lift the country’s struggling economy.
The two countries signed agreements on energy, roads, rail network, telecommunications, agriculture and tourism during Mugabe’s state visit to China in August 2014, but the deals have yet to take off the ground.
The Chinese leader had a pre-scheduled trip to South Africa to chair the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) from December 2 and it would appear Mugabe asked him to pass through Harare on his way to Johannesburg.
With the government’s unfunded ZimAsset blueprint stalled and dismissed as redundant by a state media columnist believed to be Mugabe’s own spokesman, the ruling party is under pressure.
While campaigning for re-election in 2013, Mugabe promised to deliver two million new jobs in a country where unemployment is said to be close to 90 percent; and two years after the vote, discomfiting questions are now being asked of the jobs pledge.
The 91-year-old leader has pinned his hopes on help from the world’s second biggest economy but opponents say while his “all-weather” friends in Beijing say the right things they haven’t followed up with “doing” what they pledge.
The opposition MDC-T has already dismissed the Chinese leader’s visit as “mere public relations”, adding Beijing “done nothing” but give Harare “empty” promises.
Addressing a Mass Public Opinion Institute public forum in Harare Thursday, MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu, said nothing will come out of the Zimbabwe-China mega deals.
“These so-called mega deals have just remained paper tigers, they have so far, dismally failed to resuscitate the comatose Zimbabwean economy,” said Gutu.
Envoy counsels patience
“Even the hugely anticipated State visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping doesn’t seem to promise much to the economy since it is coming across more as a mere public relations gimmick by the Chinese authorities.”
However, Ambassador Ping said Harare could expect some good news from Beijing.
“China also thinks it necessary to lend a helping hand to our Zimbabwean brothers in time of need. So during this visit, China will continue to provide support and aid to Zimbabwe,” he told reporters in Harare.
The envoy said China takes the agreements it signed with Harare “very seriously”.
“China takes the deals it has signed very seriously, and always does what it can to ensure that the agreements follow through. That is why President Xi chose Zimbabwe,” he said.
“Some of the documents that were signed between relevant authorities or enterprises are MOUs that demonstrate the willingness of both sides to co-operate in such areas and are the first but necessary step of the future co-operation.”
The deals are not stalled, but already being implemented, he added.
“Many projects are progressing well and we can expect to see more good results in the near future,” Ambassador Huang said.
President Xi’s visit also demonstrates the importance he attaches to Zimbabwe.
“This demonstrates the importance he attaches to this country,” Huang told local reporters in a group interview.
“Actually, when our two Heads of State met in Beijing in August last year and in Jakarta in April this year, President Xi spoke very highly of the traditional friendship between China and Zimbabwe and our current bilateral relations.”