China role seen in military’s sidelining of Zimbabwe’s Mugabe

by WorldTribune Staff, November 17, 2017

Zimbabwe’s military seized control and placed 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe under house arrest just days after the army’s commander had met with senior Chinese military leaders, a report said.

Observers have speculated that Constantino Chiwenga visited China to seek Beijing’s approval for a possible move against Mugabe, CNN reported on Nov. 17.

Zimbabwe army commander Constantino Chiwenga,left, with President Robert Mugabe.

During his trip to China, Chiwenga met with Central Military Commission member Gen. Li Zuocheng, according to a Chinese military press release, who told him Zimbabwe and China were “all-weather friends.”

He also met with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan on Nov. 10 in Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a press briefing last week that the visit was just a “normal military-to-military exchange” which had been planned in advance. “Since the defense ministry hosted him, I don’t have other details,” he said.

Wang Hongyi, an associate research fellow at the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies, said concerns had begun to grow over the long-term safety of Beijing’s investment in Zimbabwe.

“Chinese investment in Zimbabwe has also fallen victim to Mugabe’s policy and some projects were forced to close down or move to other countries in recent years, bringing huge losses,” said Wang. “Bilateral cooperation did not realize its potential under Mugabe’s rule.”

Wang said a change of government could be beneficial to China-Zimbabwe relations. “Friendly ties will embrace new development opportunities,” he said.

Cobus Van Staden, senior researcher on Foreign Policy at the South African Institute of International Affairs, called the possibility of Chinese involvement in the possible coup as a “billion dollar question.”

“The fact there were these kind of visits to Beijing right before (the coup) certainly seems indicative of something, but who knows what that was?”

China, which supplied ammunition and funding to Mugabe’s guerrilla forces during the country’s war of independence in the 1970s, continues to provide key financial and political support to Zimbabwe.

In 2015, Chinese investment in Zimbabwe topped $450 million, accounting for more than half of all foreign investment in the country.

“China is very loyal in this kind of way, they tend to stand by these long-time allies and every time someone like Mugabe would go to Beijing they’d roll out the red carpet,” said Van Staden.

On Nov. 15, an editorial published in the state-run Global Times said the Chinese government was unlikely to back away from its close relationship with Zimbabwe.

“China has played a positive and constructive role in Africa. The long-term friendship between China and Zimbabwe will transcend the internal disturbances in Zimbabwe,” the editorial said.


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