China gives Mugabe $25m in aid
In return, Beijing wants large quantities of Zimbabwe’s tobacco.
But China wants all the tractors to go to tobacco farmers and expects Zimbabwe to deliver 30 million kilograms by the end of the year, Haru Mutasa, Al Jazeera’s correspondent, said in Harare.
As much as 80 million kilograms of the crop is to be exported by the fifth year, Joseph Made, Zimbabwe’s minister of agricultural engineering and mechanisation, said.
Made said the farm equipment was the “first phase” of purchases under a $58m loan from the Chinese government.
After Western countries imposed economic sanctions on Mugabe and his government for what they say are widespread rights abuses, the 83-year-old leader turned to China for help, inviting it to invest in Zimbabwe’s mineral wealth.
The Chinese answered the call, promising to build schools, hospitals, give loans in foreign currency and help revive Zimbabwe’s ailing agricultural industry.
Speaking at a ceremony to receive the machinery, Mugabe said: “This is the thrust of assistance by the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of Zimbabwe … for us to sustain politically our sovereign right to be ourselves.”
Critics blame Mugabe’s controversial policies for Zimbabwe’s deep economic crisis, shown by the highest inflation rate in the world – at over 1,700 per cent – 80 per cent unemployment and shortages of food, foreign currency and fuel.
Agricultural production has fallen drastically – deepening the troubled southern African country’s economic crisis – largely due to lack of equipment, funding and technical expertise among the newly resettled farmers.
Before the land reform programme Zimbabwe was one of the largest exporters of tobacco, but it has seen a drastic reduction in output, down from a peak of over 200 million kg in 2000, to about 55 million kg last year.
Mugabe has denied his policies are to blame for the country’s economic crisis and accuses the West of sabotaging the economy as punishment for his government’s land reform policy.