21 GUNS FOR Xi . . . 1,000s see Chinese leader jet into Zim
Takunda Maodza and Lloyd Gumbo Harare Bureau
THOUSANDS of people, including President Robert Mugabe and the First Lady Cde Grace Mugabe yesterday thronged the Harare International Airport to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping who is on a two-day State visit.
Also present to receive the Chinese leader and his delegation were Vice Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, government ministers and service chiefs.
President Xi’s plane, a Boeing 747-400, landed at the Harare International Airport at 10:11am.
The plane landed in style escorted by military jets from the Air Force of Zimbabwe.
Military helicopters also hovered in the sky.
The visit by President Xi is historic in that it is the second time a sitting Chinese President has visited Zimbabwe.
The first Chinese leader to visit the country was President Jiang Zemin in 1996.
Among the thousands that lined the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Express Way leading to the Harare International Airport were hundreds of Chinese nationals resident in Zimbabwe.
They waved Zimbabwean and Chinese miniature flags in a public display of the friendship and solidarity that exists between the two countries traceable to the pre-independence era when China offered material and moral support to the freedom fighters waging a war against the British colonial rule.
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They also wore T-shirts inscribed “Long live Zimbabwe and China relationship”.
On the tarmac, members of apostolic sects, school children and Zanu-PF supporters took turns to sing in honour of the visiting Chinese leader.
President Xi received a 21 gun salute and inspected the guard of honour mounted by the Presidential Guard, which played the Chinese and Zimbabwean National Anthems.
After inspecting the guard of honour, President Xi took his time greeting people and officials who had gathered at the airport to welcome him.
The Chinese leader is accompanied by wife, Peng Liyuan.
Senior government officials who spoke to our Harare Bureau at the airport said Zimbabwe will never be the same again following President Xi’s historic visit.
They said the visit confirmed the solidification of relations between Harare and Beijing.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said: “This is an occasion for the two leaders to follow up on commitments they made in August last year. This is a very important occasion for Zimbabwe and China relations.
“The two leaders are going to meet, discuss and finalise on various issues. After the official discussions, we’ll definitely give you an opportunity to ask them questions and to brief you fully.”
Minister of Welfare Services for War Veterans, War Collaborators, Former Political Detainees and Restrictees – who is also former Zimbabwean ambassador to China – Cde Christopher Mutsvangwa, said anyone doubting the significance of President Xi’s visit should have their heads examined.
“China is the second largest economy in the whole world. They’ve sent in some of their most important government agencies to plan for this visit. We’re getting into a new era, a new era of Chinese equity investment in Zimbabwe.
“We’re on the verge of a major take off and China will be an important player. The second largest economy in the world coming into your country and you think this man can just come for the show of it? Then you got to have your head examined,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the visit by President Xi was a follow up to President Mugabe’s State visit to the Asian giant in August last year where the two countries signed a number of memoranda of understanding.
“Now the visit is going to consolidate and cement some of the agreements and also make an undertaking to further cooperate with respect to those agreements which aren’t yet mature for signing at this moment,” said Minister Chinamasa.
“As far as we’re concerned, the visit is very significant. It’s deepening, broadening and widening our economic cooperation. As all of us know, we’ve had a long relationship with the People’s Republic of China dating back to the pre-independence days but the relationship has largely been diplomatic and political.
“It’s only in the past six or seven years that we’ve started economic relationship and as we speak, the Chinese investors are becoming quite strong in terms of their investments in Zimbabwe.
“We already have more than 100 Chinese companies that have invested in Zimbabwe and there’s a lot of interest in all sectors of the economy from Chinese investors. So this visit gives a guide to Chinese investors that Zimbabwe is a safe and viable destination for their investment.”
Minister Chinamasa said funding for a number of deals that were signed during President Mugabe’s visit to China was expected to be agreed on.
“We’re going to be signing Hwange Thermal Power Station 7 and 8 (expansion) which when undertaken will add 600 megawatts to the national grid. As you’re aware, China is also funding the expansion of the Kariba South which when complete in 2018 will add another 300MW.
“There are also three other power projects which are going to be funded by China and these are private-sector driven. They’re Makomo Resources, China Sunlight and then Lusulu. Each one of them will add 600MW and the projects are near financial closure. I think in the first half of next year, we should see two of those reaching financial closure,” said Minister Chinamasa.
He said China was also interested in funding the country’s transport infrastructure.
Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira said China played a major role in enhancing ICT development in Zimbabwe.
“The fact that the Chinese leader has come and we’ve support being given to companies like TelOne for the development of the ICT sector in Zimbabwe clearly indicates that the significant areas of cooperation between Zimbabwe and China are continuously going to include ICTs.
“As you know the Chinese are already in full support of institutions like NetOne where a facility of $218 million was signed during the official State visit of His Excellency, President Mugabe to China in August last year. Also $98 million is to be signed later to support TelOne and we’re discussing other possible support towards the ICT sector in the country.
“We’re very proud and happy that this historic visit will include support to a very critical sector in our country,” said Minister Mandiwanzira.
Upon arrival, President Xi went straight to the National Heroes Arce, where he saluted galant sons and daughters of Zimbabwe who perished in their quest to free the country from colonial bondage.
Speaking after the tour, President Xi urged Zimbabweans and Chinese people not to forget the exploits of the two countries’ national heroes who made the two nations dynamic and what they were today.
President Xi laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“We should never forget the exploits of our national heroes. It is what makes our countries dynamic and move forward,” he said.
President Xi who was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi, was welcomed by Information, Communication and Technology and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira and Deputy Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry Cde Anastacia Ndlovu.
On his arrival at the shrine President Xi inspected the guard of honour before he was given a brief history of the monument.
He was shown the graves of national heroes Cde Herbert Chitepo and Cde Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo and heroine Cde Sally Mugabe.