Tendai Rupapa in DONGGUAN, China
TRANSPORT problems facing Zimbabwe’s rural and urban populations could soon be over, amid indications that a Chinese electric bus manufacturer intends to set up an assembly plant in Harare.
The setting up of the plant will be done under the company’s drive to spread its wings to Africa and is expected to create thousands of jobs.
Winnerway Automobile Co Ltd, represented by its manager Mr Yu Wen Ming, has since donated one bus to Angel of Hope Foundation, which has been instrumental in bringing a high-powered Zimbabwean business delegation here.
First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, the patron of Angel of Hope Foundation, has a passion for the development of Zimbabwe’s economy.
It is this passion that has driven her to take this historic trip here, the first by a First Lady of Zimbabwe, to unlock benefits for the people across most sectors of the economy.
Buses manufactured by Winnerway Automobile Co Ltd use lithium batteries, which when fully charged can go for up to 300 kilometres. The firm, situated in Dongguan City, manufactures 8 000 buses annually.
Mr Yu’s plans to set up the plant was at the invitation of Amai Mnangagwa. “The proposal that has been presented to us by the First Lady for us to set up a plant in Zimbabwe is something that we are going to take seriously,” he said.
“Given that it is a huge investment, it requires further engagements and we will engage further and map the way forward.”
The proposal could not have come at a better time as Zimbabwe is busy building a mass transport system for efficiency and public safety. At present, the country is importing buses for Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) for the convenience of the urban commuters and long-distance travellers.
In an interview after her meeting with the company’s executives, the First Lady expressed delight that her engagement with Chinese companies was not limited to partnership arrangements with Angel of Hope Foundation, but also touched on critical sectors of the economy such as transport.
“From the meeting we had, Zimbabwe will benefit a lot if this company establishes a plant in our country,” she said. “I have invited them to come over to Zimbabwe in line with our mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ and they have agreed to look into it.”
The First Lady said President Mnangagwa had been running up and down to various countries seeking ways to address transport challenges faced by citizens.
“Without transport, there is no mobility, no connectivity, hence the transport sector is critical in every country,” she said. “That is the main reason why we have invited Winnerway to come to Zimbabwe.”
The First Lady said Zimbabwe was a central place in Sadc, hence surrounding countries would now visit Zimbabwe to buy from Winnerway.
“This means their company will expand and sell its products to these countries as well,” she said. “When I came here, I was invited as the Patron of Angel of Hope Foundation as well as the First Lady, but the meetings have touched on so many issues.
“Unfortunately, amongst the delegation we do not have a representative from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, but we will forward all that was obtained here to the President.”
The mother of the nation was amazed by the decision by Winnerway to donate a bus to Angel of Hope Foundation.
“I want to thank the company for the kind gesture, I am short of words,” she said. “The bus will go a long way in assisting me in executing my philanthropic works. Truly this can only be God. We were not expecting this and we are grateful. We will put the bus to good use. I am always in the remote areas, therefore, this bus could not have come at any better time.”
Mr Denford Mutashu, president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers, who is part of the First Lady’s delegation representing business and private sector said; “The invitation by Her Excellency Amai Mnangagwa to Winnerway Automobile to set up a plant in Zimbabwe is a welcome development to the economy of our country.”
Mr Mutashu said the decision to invest in Zimbabwe would save the country foreign currency by curtailing imports of second-hand vehicles and vehicle spare parts from Japan and other regions.
He thanked the First Lady for leading the delegation, adding that the firm’s interests to set up a plant resonated with many other Chinese investors that were willing to establish manufacturing plants in Zimbabwe.
The delegation toured Winnerway Automobile plant and they had a feel of one of the buses.
The First Lady was invited to China by ChinaBrand group of companies that is owned by Mrs Juliana Elhawary.
Mrs Elhawary appreciates the First Lady’s empowerment and development work she conducts through her foundation.
She has been instrumental in mobilising potential Chinese investors who has so far held several fruitful meetings with the Zimbabwe delegation led by the First Lady representing her foundation.