By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
29 April 2014
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army has donated $4.2 million to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), the state media reported this week.
The donation, which will ‘fund various army projects’ was received by commander of the ZDF Constantine Chiwenga, on Monday. Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi said the two armies discussed ‘cooperation between China and Zimbabwe in the defence sector and the programmes for the future.’
Zanu PF’s relations with China date back to the liberation war era when Beijing sponsored the party with military training and equipment. The relationship continued after independence but was to intensify under the ‘Look East’ policy, developed in reaction to President Mugabe’s fall-out with the West.
So far Beijing has been the chief beneficiary of the controversial policy and as a result China’s presence is evident in all sectors of the economy. But it is cooperation in the security sector that has raised more concerns.
The ZDF is under western targeted sanctions because of its role in stifling democracy and in human rights abuses. But the Chinese feel no moral scruples in assisting the Zimbabwean army. In 2008 Beijing attempted to donate arms to Zimbabwe but the shipment was forced to return after workers in Durban refused to unload it in solidarity with Mugabe’s victims.
Zimbabwe Exiles Forum Director Gabriel Shumba said the latest donation was ‘questionable.’ He said China’s consistency in propping up the military shows that it is not interested in the welfare of ordinary Zimbabweans. Shumba said that if the Chinese were genuinely concerned about the ordinary people they would donate to the victims of the Tokwe Mukosi floods.
He added: ‘All that the Chinese want are our natural resources and hence their continued partnership with the army which is also looting in that sector.’
The Chinese are also involved with the army in Chiadzwa diamond mining and provided the $98 million for the so-called Zimbabwe Defence College. Anjin Investments, which is the largest company operating in the Marange area, is jointly owned by the army and the Chinese.
China’s support for the army is also seen as a way of thanking Mugabe for awarding more deals to Chinese businesses ahead of the West. Presenting the latest donation to Chiwenga on Monday General Qi said China admired Mugabe for standing up to the West. The Chinese general said Mugabe was a strong leader who is in the league of Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.