President Robert Mugabe has, for the first time, gone public with some details of an arms-for-minerals deal his government entered with China a few years ago.
Speaking during his 93rd birthday interview aired on state television on Monday night, Mugabe revealed he had met his Chinese counterpart, Xi Xinping, in Beijing on January 9 to discuss the deal, among other issues.
“They (Zimbabwe’s military) felt I should raise the issue (relating to) the platinum claim they gave to a Chinese company to exploit so the money therefrom can be used to secure and pay the debt which they have (arising from) arms procured from China,” Mugabe said, when asked about the January meeting with Xi.
There has been speculation about the Zimbabwe military’s deals with China, whose influence in Harare has grown since the early 2000s when the West imposed military and economic embargoes in protest over mounting rights abuses and allegations of electoral fraud.
On May 6, 2014, Chinese embassy economic and commercial counselor Han Bing said that Beijing wanted Zimbabwe to use its mineral proceeds to guarantee any future loans after Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa admitted that China was apprehensive about extending financial aid to the debt-ridden southern African nation.
The use of minerals as collateral was already an accepted principle, Han said then.
However, Mugabe’s government has, until now, refused to comment on reports that it was mortgaging the country’s mineral wealth to secure arms from China.
His comments also follow the high-profile collapse of Anjin, a diamond mining partnership between Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company Ltd of China (AFECC) and Matt Bronze, an investment vehicle controlled by Zimbabwe’s military.
The Zimbabwe government took over total control of all Marange diamond operations — throwing out its erstwhile partners — in a move it said was meant to consolidate the sector and improve transparency and accountability. A report by the private Zimbabwe Independent said the military had received $78 million from Anjin between 2011, at the start of the firm’s diamond sales, and 2014.
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