Harare – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has praised China, saying the Asian country has done more for Africa that its former colonisers.
Speaking during the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) in Johannesburg on Friday, Mugabe, who is also the current chairperson of the African Union (AU), blasted as distorted claims that China is a neo-colonialist that is draining Africa of its natural resources.
“Once again our detractors have sought to portray and reduce our relations to purely commercial ties driven, as they say, by China’s appetite for and desire to extract raw materials from our continent. That’s what they say.
“On contrary, reality fortunately does not conform to such distorted, imaginative creations. Our relations go much deeper than the extraction of resources. We are committed to strengthening the current and multi-facetted and multi-dimensional relations between African countries and China.
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Reports indicated that China was a shrewd investor and that its investment focus in Africa was guided by resource exploitation opportunities.
China’s president Xi Jinping was in Zimbabwe last week where he signed 10 investment deals and pledged to continue co-operating with the investment-hungry southern African country as it attempts to reverse a prolonged economic meltdown, according to Fin24.
Jinping signed deals worth more than $4 billion with Harare, according to state media.
The state-run Herald newspaper said the deals, which include the building of a new parliament building outside Harare and the expansion of Hwange power station, would "usher in a new era of technical and economic co-operation between the two countries".
Zimbabwe has over the years been shunned by most international investors for uncertainly of property rights. The country has looked to China for investment in key infrastructure projects such as power, telecommunications and construction.
Mugabe on Friday said Jinping was a "God-sent person".
"Here is a man representing a country once called poor, a country which was never our coloniser. He is doing to us what we expected those who colonised us yesterday to do… We will say he is a God-sent person."
Back home, however, Mugabe’s rivals criticised China's investment in Zimbabwe, saying it was akin to second colonisation.
Former finance minister, Tendai Biti, who also leads the opposition Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), said Jinping’s visit was not different from the 1890’s Pioneer Column’s invasion of Zimbabwe, New Zimbabwe.com reported.
The visit by “Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese top leaders is no different from Cecil John Rhodes-led Pioneer column which effected the colonisation of our country and put it through almost 100 years of bondage,” Biti was quoted as saying.
Another senior opposition official, former education minister David Coltart of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), criticised the so called mega-deals signed between China and Zimbabwe, saying they will “employ very few Zimbabweans and involve very few companies”, reported News24.
Writing on Twitter , Coltart said: “We desperately need construction deals which will involve our architects, our engineers, our builders, our workers, our companies not Chinese.”