Farirai Machivenyika, Harare Bureau
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has invited Chinese construction firm, Shanghai Construction Group, to establish offices in Zimbabwe in preparation for carrying out future infrastructure construction projects, as the country moves to fulfil Vision 2030 aimed at achieving an upper middle income society.
The President was speaking after touring the on-going construction of the new Parliament Building in Mt Hampden yesterday, which he said was symbolic of the strategic relationship between Zimbabwe and China.
The 650-seater Parliament building is being constructed by Shanghai Construction Group using a grant of approximately US$98 million (RMB676,43 million) extended to Zimbabwe by the Chinese government.
Zimbabwe is targeting development and modernisation of roads, railways, airports and other related infrastructure to help fulfil provisions of the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, and enhance the lives of the ordinary people by achieving Vision 2030.
“This company (Shanghai Construction Group) which is building this Parliament for us has been on the continent for many years, possibly decades and have repute across the continent for constructing buildings or infrastructure of repute,” said President Mnangagwa.
“Now they are in Zimbabwe and they are building this one for us freely. We are grateful, but I would wish that they continue to remain in Zimbabwe. In the area of infrastructure development, Zimbabwe is still lagging behind and I am informed that this company has multiple skills in the area of construction of infrastructure.
“Even by the time we complete this project, there are other projects currently being discussed and seeking financing and I have no doubt that we will be able to select you to implement such projects in Zimbabwe.”
President Mnangagwa said the construction of the Parliament building was as a result of a discussions he held with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, during the FOCAC summit in Beijing last year.
“There are issues which were discussed under the FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation) meeting in September last year and currently there are discussions which should be undertaken this month at ministerial level,” said President Mnangagwa.
“Under that programme, China-Africa programme, there is a $60 billion facility from China to Africa and I have no doubt that Zimbabwe will share part of that cake for infrastructure development.”
President Mnangagwa said under the new dispensation, business takes precedence over politics, citing that investors must shun corruption and focus on doing business using the correct channels.
“Now, business takes front seat and politics takes a back seat,” he said. “The cost of short-cuts and the disregard of local authority by-laws and architectural requirements have far reaching and dire implications to one’s investments
“Individuals and corporate property investors must, therefore, make sound and corrupt-free decisions.”
President Mnangagwa praised Shanghai Construction Group for the work it is doing at the New Parliament Building site, whose ground breaking ceremony was done in November last year.
“This edifice will be one of the most unique parliaments in our region,” he said. “Besides being unique, it’s demonstrative of our comprehensive, strategic relationship with the People’s Republic of China. There are many friends we have, but this is one symbolic stature which generations to come will know it is a demonstration of the cooperation between the people of Zimbabwe and the people of China.”
President Mnangagwa commended the construction firm for moving with speed, saying the project was likely to be completed before the scheduled three years. “I am told that the period of construction is expected to span a period of three years, but I would speculate that with the pace the project is being implemented, there is a possibility that the construction of this parliament will be finished earlier than projected,” he said.
“The Chinese working culture is a culture I believe we should emulate. The Chinese are very hard-working and get focused on the project they would be doing. I have no doubt that our own Zimbabwean people; the craftsmen who are here, the engineers who are here, the architects that are here will benefit not only in terms of skills, but in terms of technology that has been brought here.”
President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe and China shared a historic relationship and thanked China and Russia for vetoing attempts by Western nations in 2008 to invoke Chapter 7 of the UN Charter and impose sanctions on Zimbabwe. “The relationship between China and Zimbabwe is special,” he said. “We have a very strong history of trade between us. We also have a recent history of liberation where China stood by the oppressed people of this country and supported us through our armed struggle to liberate ourselves.
“They vetoed that evil scheme which was intended by our detractors to punish us. So, you can see that China is a solid friend of Zimbabwe.
President Mnangagwa said he was satisfied with the improving trade between Zimbabwe and China.
“I am happy because then it speaks of the diversification of our economy unlike in the past our economy was substantively based on the Western structure where whatever we needed we had to go to the West,” he said.
“But now it is necessary that we do not put our eggs in one basket, we should spread them.”
In his remarks, Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Guo Shaochun said: “The construction of the Parliament building enhances the working conditions of the Zimbabwe parliament as it comes when the Parliament is discussing important issues towards achieving Vision 2030.
“The new Parliament building represents opportunities brought by the development of China.”