Zimbabwe’s controversial relationship with China has taken an amusing turn after the communist country bought Harare Central prison complex which houses more than 2000 families and over 4 000 inmates.
The Chinese company is set to convert the prison complex and its staff residence into a military manufacturing plant in a deal sealed without cabinet approval with the Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa being the main principle behind the secretive project and former Ambassador to China Chris Mutsvangwa is the project manager.
Reports from goverment sources said the President, Robert Mugabe is also planning to "sell" to China, Munhumutapa government office buildings situated in Harare Central on a long lease.
The "manufacturing" plant will occupy a very large area of land stretching from Enterprise road, and it will be joined to KG6 Barracks, and Police’s Tomilson’s and Morrison’s Deports.
The plant will produce military equipment, including uniforms and various security gadgets like tear gas canisters for export to rogue States across the world.
Members of the Zimbabwe National Army at KG6 Barracks will be working on the plant as labourers togather with Zanu PF party faithful and the area will be sealed off to members of the public.
Harare City Council has been asked to draw plans to close the Enterprise road and Newlands Shopping Centre whose buildings will be siezed by the State and expropriated for use in the project.
Unconfirmed reports said the Chinese have also demanded the area occupied by St Georges College and the National Botanic Gardens on the Hill opposite the KG6 Barracks and they intend to use it for their sophicticated defence equipment which will do the survillance as part of the defence system for their investment in the project.
The Chinese company has already set up a base at the State House and they’re using the House Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was supposed to occupy.
Sources said the US intelligence services, the CIA and South African government have registered their concern over plans of such a military infrastructure in the region and sources said United States President Barrack Obama has included the matter on the agenda of his scheduled visit to China later this month.
The prison complex is made up of Harare Remand and Central prisons, a workshop, the commissioner’s mess and officers’ accommodation. Prison sources say a meeting was held last week in Harare to conclude the deal.
"The Chinese firm has offered to build a new prison at the notorious Chikurubi farm. Inmates at Harare Prison would be transferred to Chikurubi. This would be over a five-year period" said the source.
A delegation comprising heads of Zimbabwe Prison Service has since toured the proposed new prison site to ascertain the suitability of the area.
It could not be established how much the Chinese firm paid or is going to pay for the relocation of Harare Central prison to Chikurubi.
"Work has started and all senior heads of departments were on Tuesday (last week) ordered to go and scout the suggested ground on which their Stations, Sections and Departments are to be erected at Chikurubi farm which is also Prisons’ property.
"We have also been ordered to put down our requirements for each department and forward them with immediate effect," added the source.
ZPS says the arrangement is a "win-win deal". But other senior ZPS officials argued that the decision to relocate Harare Central prison to Chikurubi could endanger the health of both prison staff and inmates because of dust and other emissions from the giant Lafarge Cement (formerly Circle Cement) plant near Chikurubi. Plus