President Robert Mugabe was Monday welcomed with full military honours by his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at the Chinese Great Hall as he started a five-day state visit to Beijing, during which he hopes to secure more investment for Zimbabwe’s struggling economy.
But back home, Mr. Mugabe is facing criticism from some business leaders and economists who are questioning his decision not to include business leaders in his delegation as other heads of state do on such visits.
The president is accompanied by First Lady, Grace Mugabe, their son Chatunga Bellarmine, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made, Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Transport Minister Obert Mpofu and Mines Minister Walter Chidhakwa .
Mr. Xi called Mr. Mugabe “a renowned leader of the African national liberation and an old friend of the Chinese people whom we respect very much.”
Mr. Mugabe said he felt "very much at home", and thanked President Xi for the invitation which reminded him of the past and "brings our past to the present".
Government insiders told Studio 7 that Mr. Mugabe is trying to secure a $10 billion credit loan facility to help Harare embark on an economic turn around programme under its five year economic plan- the Zimbabwe Agenda for Social and Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET).
Zimbabwean officials have previously quoted Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao and Chinese ambassador to Harare Lin Lin as having said China was willing to fund ZIMASSET.
ZIMASSET requires about $27 billion but Harare has been struggling to secure the funds.
But Mr. Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba sought to downplay the issue of the loan saying the visit was “largely looking at investment of an infrastructure nature,” with emphasis on energy and transport.
Efforts to get a comment from Mr. Mugabe’s delegations were futile as their mobile phones went unanswered.
But former Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president, Luxon Zembe, said Mr. Mugabe’s visit this juncture is critical as the economic crisis has taken a turn for the west.
The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua reports that figures released by China's minister of commerce indicate that Chinese investment to Zimbabwe in non-financial sectors topped $602 million in 2013, leading Chinese investments to any other African country in that year Chinese companies in Zimbabwe have invested in mining, construction, telecommunication and agriculture.