Will China Help Make Grace Mugabe President Of Zimbabwe?
As Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu PF political party struggles with fracturing internal power, two transitional plans — one from Western backers and another from China — are being refined in anticipation of the post-Mugabe era, The Zimbabwe Independent reported.
The Western package underwrites Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ascendancy, according to Zimbabwe Independent. The Chinese deal is largely designed to shore up First Lady Grace Mugabe and her Zanu PF faction’s political ambitions.
The Chinese government has come up with a $5 billion US financial rescue package for Zimbabwe to fund housing projects and agriculture ahead of the 2018 general elections. It’s part of a bid to counter the West’s proposed $2 billion US transitional Lima Plan, Zimbabwe Independent reported.
China’s plan is designed to offer President Robert Mugabe “a soft landing so that he does not leave Zimbabwe in ruins as it is now, but quits on a high, bequeathing a progressive, not disastrous, legacy to the nation,” Owen Gagare reported.
Zimbabwe and China sealed deals worth more than $4 billion when Mugabe visited China in 2014. Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a reciprocal visit to Zimbabwe in 2015 where and Mugabe signed more deals, according to Zimbabwe Herald.
Although it has been on the table for a while, the Chinese proposal was recently reworked from one focused on funding of infrastructure including railways to a package allocating $4 billion to agriculture and $1 billion to housing.
All the big geopolitical players are refining their transition strategies and post-Mugabe plans including the U.S., U.K. and South Africa, Zimbabwe Independent reported.
The Western-driven bailout was launched in October in Peru to help Zimbabwe clear $1.8 billion in debt to internationals financial institutions — including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and African Development Bank — and secure $2 billion in new funding.
“The Lima Plan is being spearheaded by Mnangagwa’s key ally (Zimbabwean Finance Minister) Patrick Chinamasa, while the Chinese deal is being driven by Grace Mugabe’s close associate, local government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere,” an unnamed diplomat told the Zimbabwe Independent.
However the IMF said recently it will not finance Zimbabwe until reforms are put in place. IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said in a Sept. 1 briefing that the IMF would not be discussing a financing program with Zimbabwe.
Chinese’s $5 billion deal appears to still be on track so far. The funds will enable the Zanu PF government to build housing targeting low-income earners ahead of the 2018 general elections, Zimbabwe Indepenent reported.
China’s trade with Zimbabwe is now worth over $1 billion with many Chinese companies doing business in the country. Former colonizer the U.K. is also a big player in Zimbabwe and had more than 500 companies operating there at one time. South Africa is Zimbabwe’s largest trade partner. Zimbabwe gets more than 60 percent of its imports from South Africa and exports more than 50 percent of its goods to South Africa.