ZIMBABWE’s upcoming general elections could have divided world leaders’ opinion, with Britain and China throwing their weight behind President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s candidature at a time the United States has remained sceptical of the Zanu PF leader and kept a soft spot on the youthful MDC-T presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa.
China, the world’s second largest economy after the US, has even predicted that Mnangagwa will register a clean sweep in the elections set for either July or August this year.
Top Chinese diplomat in Harare, Zhao Baogang, told journalists on Saturday that the Asian economic giant currently playing host to Mnangagwa will, however, honour its obligations should there be a change of guard at the apex of Zimbabwe’s executive.
“We are very confident (that Mnangagwa will win the elections). We support Mnangagwa and the government of Zanu PF,” Baogang said.
He said in the unlikely event that Mnangagwa loses the harmonised elections, China will honour its commitments to Zimbabwe.
“We will respect the wishes of the Zimbabwean people and will honour our commitments,” he said.
“On the possibility of resolving the liquidity crunch, I just got briefed by both sides, the Zimbabwe minister (Finance Patrick Chinamasa) and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya after their visit to China. A Chinese commercial bank will co-operate with the African Export and Import Bank to see the possibility of providing further loans to help Zimbabwe. The Chinese side is trying to find every solution to help alleviate the liquidity crisis in Zimbabwe and we hope progress will be made (during the visit),” the Chinese envoy said.
Baogang added Mnangagwa and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will hold talks for “hours” and the Asian country was set to announce a “huge package to help President Mnangagwa’s vision to revitalise the economy and for the development of Zimbabwe”.
British ambassador to Harare, Catriona Laing last week claimed that London and Harare were now “in a better place” than they were before former President Robert Mugabe’s ouster last November.
Laing told a State-controlled weekly she had, in the past few weeks, addressed investors keen on coming to Zimbabwe.
“In terms of value, the combined total value of UK projects approved by the Zimbabwe Investment Authority between 2014 and 2017 are more that $336 million. These projects are all at various stages of completion. If the elections go well and are endorsed by the international monitors, that will send a very positive signal to UK investors that the government is fulfilling its obligations and committed to the rule of law,” Laing said.
“So what I am expecting following the elections is that companies that are in exploratory mode at the moment will move into more accelerated mode to actually start looking at prospects for real investment.”
The British envoy said Mugabe’s removal presented a fresh start for the two countries, adding Zimbabwe should seize the opportunity for the next round of meetings with the International Monetary Fund to set its plan “up to the elections and beyond”.
“So I think we are in a better place . . . if we continue to see progress, then I hope that we will be able to move to the next stage and get to a point where Zimbabwe and Britain have full normal investment and trading relations. Then we can work together in fora like the United Nations and ensure that Zimbabwe plays its role as a good global citizen,” she said.
Laing added that Mnangagwa has made “positive” indications in the area of economic reform, but insisted that Britain “wants to see the next stage which the President (Mnangagwa) has committed to”.
But MDC Alliance spokesperson Welshman Ncube yesterday reacted angrily to China and Britain’s new soft stance for Mnangagwa.
“We think it is inappropriate for the British and the Chinese to pick a horse in this election. They should, instead, insist on Zimbabwe abiding by international norms and standards for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections,” Ncube said.
He claimed that some foreign countries, which he could not name, had “facilitated the November coup” that paved the way for Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe.
“There is sufficient evidence that some of these countries participated in the coup in November. We think they should stop interfering given the role they played in the transfer of power last year,” the former Cabinet minister said.
Mnangagwa left Harare for Beijing yesterday on one of his most high-profile foreign trips since taking over the levers of power last year.
Another Chinese diplomat, who spoke to NewsDay on condition of anonymity after Mnangagwa’s Press briefing on Saturday, said Zimbabwe was likely to be elevated to “strategic status” during the President’s visit.
“At the moment in Africa, China has granted ‘strategic status’ to Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt. Zimbabwe is likely to be next,” he said.
US President Donald Trump last month extended sanctions against Zimbabwe for another year, arguing that Mnangagwa’s administration “remained a threat to Washington’s foreign policy”.