Zimbabwe appeals for Chinese investment in mines

BEIJING – A Zimbabwe government official on Friday appealed to Chinese firms to invest in Zimbabwean mines, asking companies to ignore the country's recent troubles and strike now while the iron is hot.

Zimbabwe has asked the world for help for its devastated economy, and says it needs $10 billion to rebuild dilapidated infrastructure and ease a 90 percent unemployment rate.

Taonga Mushayavanhu, Zimbabwe’s deputy ambassador in Beijing, urged Chinese companies attending a mining conference to invest in his country, which has deposits of platinum, gold and diamonds, among other minerals.

"Now we have stability and security," he said. "The government of Zimbabwe recognises the importance of the mining industry in its economic recovery programme and realises that the economic turnaround cannot be possible without foreign investment.

"That’s the reason why we are talking to you — trying to entice you to come in … There are better opportunities at this stage than down the road when competition is much stiffer," Mushayavanhu added.

Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change in February formed a fragile coalition administration with President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF to end a long-running political crisis and a decade of economic ruin.

Mugabe denies rights abuse charges levied against him, and insists the West has withheld aid mainly in protest over his controversial seizure of white-owned commercial farms for resettlement among blacks.

Mugabe has tried to boost economic ties with Asian countries such as China and Malaysia.

Beijing and Chinese companies have pledged tens of billions of dollars to Africa in loans and investments, mostly to secure raw materials for the world’s fastest-growing major economy. 

China’s trade with the continent has jumped by an average 30 percent a year this decade, reaching nearly $107 billion in 2008.

Last week, Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe had secured $950 million in credit from China to help rebuild its economy, the biggest offer from a single country since a unity government was formed.

But on Friday, Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti told Reuters that no agreement had been reached with China on the credit line.