A special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe this week to present three designs for a new, $145m legislature that China has offered to donate to the African country.
Zimbabwe needs a new legislature because its current one is overcrowded (pictured).
Plans have been in the works for the past two years, but were accelerated on the orders of President Xi in the wake of his visit to Harare in December, during which 10 large business deals were signed.
Work had been expected to begin next year, but the Chinese are now saying that it can start as soon as the Zimbabwe government gives the go ahead. The present building is overcrowded following an expansion of the number of representatives, from 210 to 270.
The task we have at hand is to convert our natural resources into wealth for our people. The other key areas include roads, rail and infrastructure development– Zimbabwean President Mugabe
Zhang Ming, China’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, told reporters after his meeting on 21 June: "We are waiting for the confirmation from Zimbabwe side for the early launch of this project."
According to local media, the parliament will be built at Mount Hampden, about 17km outside the centre of Harare. As well as the assembly, there will parks, an affluent residential area, shopping centres, hotels and government buildings.
The Chinese are also donating 20,000 tonnes of rice to ease the effect of a drought in Zimbabwe, which has reportedly left 4 million people short of food.
The donations, which also include a number of schools and health clinics across the country, are part of a wider assistance and investment programme.
During President Xi’s December visit, China signed 10 economic agreements, including the expansion of the southern African nation’s largest thermal power plant.
Other deals waiting for financing include a high-speed railway between Harare and Bulawayo, to be built by China Railway for $1.2bn; the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Supply Project, which requires a $1.2bn loan; and the $1.3bn expansion of the Beitbridge-Chirundu Highway.
China Africa Sunlight Energy plans to invest $2.1bn to develop coal mines and two 100MW coal-fired plants.
In return for this investment, China will gain access to Zimbabwe’s mineral wealth. During Xi’s visit, President Mugabe said: "The task we have at hand is to convert our natural resources into wealth for our people. The other key areas include roads, rail and infrastructure development."
Zimbabwe has extensive deposits of platinum, diamonds, gold, chrome, nickel and coal. Altogether, its mineral resources have been estimated to be worth $15 trillion.
Photograph: Zimbabwe’s colonial-era legislature is now overcrowded (Zimbabwe Parliament)