BEIJING — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe met his counterpart, Xi Jinping, in China on Monday, weeks after he was snubbed by US President Barack Obama at a summit of African leaders he hosted in Washington.
Mr Mugabe was welcomed with an honour guard outside the Great Hall of the People, where he received a 21-gun salute. He was then serenaded by three women playing traditional Chinese instruments before heading into closed-door meetings with Mr Xi.
Mr Mugabe’s seizure of land owned by white farmers and a series of elections marred by violence and irregularities have made him a pariah to governments in the Western world. His country’s ability to borrow from global institutions has also been undercut.
Yet China has long maintained close economic and diplomatic links, with Vice-Premier Wang Yang visiting in May last year on a two-day official visit.
"Mugabe’s trip to China is to seek a last financial lifeline for his regime," Martyn Davies, CEO of Johannesburg-based Frontier Advisory, said on Monday. Frontier Advisory provides research on emerging markets.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (left) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday -Reuters
However, he said, with China reforming its state-owned sector, Mr Mugabe’s party would be "naive to assume that Chinese capital is as easy to get as it has been in previous years".
Mr Mugabe was seeking a $4bn rescue package to stabilise a faltering economy, the Zimbabwe Independent reported earlier this month, citing sources it did not identify. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa visited China in January and was told to come up with a plan, it said.
Economic growth in Zimbabwe, which averaged 10% between 2009 and 2012, is forecast at 3.1% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Mr Mugabe, who is subject to US sanctions, was one of four African leaders not invited by Mr Obama to the summit earlier this month. The others were Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, and leaders from Eritrea and Central African Republic. In April, Zimbabwe boycotted a European Union-Africa summit after Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace, was denied a visa to enter Brussels. Still, Mr Mugabe won endorsement from regional leaders this month when he was named head of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (Sadc).
Mr Mugabe would "discuss infrastructural projects" with China that "add value" to regional products, he said last week at the end of the Sadc summit in Victoria Falls. He is also the frontrunner to lead the 54-nation African Union next year.
"Since countries in the region and the regional organisations endorse Mugabe and his legitimacy, China certainly does not stand alone or feel vulnerable," Yun Sun, a fellow with the East Asia Programme at the Washington-based Stimson Center, said in an e-mail.
China had long viewed Mr Mugabe as an African liberation leader, and supporting Western-style democracy in Africa was not a goal for China, she said. Mr Mugabe’s chairmanship of Sadc meant he had great influence over the agendas of regional organisations, which China would like to participate in as much as possible.
Zimbabwe has the world’s biggest reserves of platinum after South Africa. China Power Investment Corporation may buy a Rio Tinto coal mine in Zimbabwe and build a thermal generator that would double the country’s capacity, Mr Chinamasa said in March.
Trade between the two countries has more than doubled to $1.1bn between 2010 and 2013, China’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Lin Lin, said in an editorial last week in Zimbabwe’s state-owned Herald newspaper. China’s investment last year was $602m, he said.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Sunday opened a summit of southern African leaders by calling for countries to drive growth by exporting more finished goods instead of raw materials.
The 90-year-old leader took over as chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) from Malawi's Peter Mutharika after almost a decade of being excluded from positions of power in the 15-member bloc.
He is also in line to lead the 54-nation African Union from next year.
Southern Africa must "wean itself from exporting raw materials and create value chains that will lead to the exportation of finished products," he told the opening of the two-day summit.
"Our region has abundant resources, which instead of being sold in raw form at very low prices must be exploited and beneficiated to add value to the products which we export."
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 but a series of economic crises, flawed elections and brutal crackdowns that have brought UN sanctions and turned the former revolutionary into a Western pariah.
He was the only leader from southern Africa not invited to attend a major US-African summit in Washington earlier this month, which included some 45 of the continent's heads of state.
Rights groups last week urged southern African countries to address abuses and uphold individual freedoms at the meeting in the Zimbabwean resort town of Victoria Falls.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights deplored "serious human rights concerns" in Angola, Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
They accused Harare of dragging its feet to prosecute perpetrators of political violence in past elections, and denounced secrecy around mining rights and the country's lucrative diamond fields.
Speaking in the Zimbabwean resort town of Victoria Falls on Sunday, Mugabe said the SADC the bloc prides itself in an impressive track record in peace, security and democracy.
Regional security and socio-economic development are at the top of the agenda of the meeting, which ends on Monday.
PRESIDENT Mugabe yesterday said if MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai could not fathom losing the harmonised elections, he was free to go hang. The Zanu-PF First Secretary and President who triumphed in the Presidential race after polling over 61 percent against Mr Tsvangirai's 33,9 percent, made the remarks while addressing thousands of people who thronged the National Heroes' Acre for the Heroes Day main celebrations in Harare.
Zanu-PF also scooped 160 out of the 210 National Assembly constituencies, wrestling back 61 constituencies the MDC formations won in the 2008 elections.
A visibly shaken Mr Tsvangirai refused to accept results announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and has since approached the Constitutional Court seeking nullification of the results citing alleged irregularities.
"Saka vanenge vachirwadziwa nekukundwa hameno zvavo kana vachizvisungirira ngavazvisungirire. Kana imbwa hadzimbofa dzakanhuwidza nyama yavo vakafa vakadaro," President Mugabe said.
He said Zimbabwe held elections in line with the electoral democracy the West claims to advance.
"Takavhotaka maererano nechinangwa chikuru chinonzi democracy. Ndozvamakataura vemhiri zvikabvumwa pasi rose kuti kuve nedemocracy. Heyoka tauya nayo. Tauya nayo munotii?
"We are delivering democracy on a platter. Do you take it? We say take it or leave it, but the people have delivered it and forward ever. Never will we go back on our achievement, on our victory. Tinoramba tichienda mberi. Hatisi vekudududza isu."
The UN, AU, Sadc, Comesa and other observer groups from Africa have endorsed the elections while the United States, Britain and its dominion Australia -- who were not invited to observe -- have joined MDC-T in condemning the election.
This has effectively put MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai and his Western sponsors on one side, and Africa and Zanu-PF on another side aping the contestation in Zimbabwe over the past decade.
President Mugabe said two themes defined this year's Heroes' Day commemorations.
The first was a day when Zimbabweans reflect in remembering all the departed cadres who sacrificed their lives to liberate the country.
The President said it was an opportunity for Zimbabwe to prove to the heroes and heroines that their sacrifices were not in vain as Zanu-PF's resounding victory ensured that objectives of the liberation struggle would be safeguarded.
"Ndima yepiri inoti nhaka yavatisiira heyo yanga iri mumaoko edu, tiine shoko rabva kwavari rekuti kuenda taenda asi heyo nhaka yatakupai moichengetedza.
"Pakati apo ndokuita bishi. Ny'any'a hedzo dzotungamira dzichitungamidzwa sezvimbwasungata kuti vaye vatakamborwisa vachitorazve nhaka iyi vogova ndivo vanotigovera. Ndimi inoti tinotenda vana veZimbabwe.
"Izuva ramauya kuti takagona kuchengetedza nhaka yedu. Chokwadi yakanga yobvutwa asi takazviona nemeso tikazvinzwira nenzeve tikava nemushandu mukuru.
"Takarwisa, takakunda. Saka tirikuti isu vachengeti venhaka pazuva ranhasi kwamuri imi vakatungamira makairwira mukaifira tiritose. Chamakafira mukatipa, zvamakayambira tikazvinzwa. Tauya kuti titi nhaka tirikuichengetedza, nhaka ticharamba tichiichengetedza. Nhaka haichazobva mumaoko edu. Ndiyo mhiko yatirikuita.
Zvimbwasungata zvakasairirwa musango. Takakunda," President Mugabe said in apparent reference to the crushing defeat the western-sponsored MDC formations suffered at the hands of Zanu-PF in the just-ended harmonised elections.
The election results, the President said, showed detractors that unity of purpose was at play in Zimbabwe.
President Mugabe said the election of the country's Government was a preserve of Zimbabweans and not the West.
He said the Heroes' Day commemorations also followed two "happy and historic" milestones.
President Mugabe cited the successful conclusion and adoption of a new home-grown Constitution and the widely-endorsed harmonised elections.
"Both events were conducted in a peaceful manner proving wrong those who doubted that Zimbabweans are able to conduct their affairs without external interference. We did it as Zimbabweans. We did it in a peaceful way. We did it in a united way.
"At this point I wish to convey my sense of deep gratitude to all political parties for the peace that we all created in the environment. To churches and all Zimbabweans for upholding the peace before, during and after the elections. Indeed we should continue to cherish our unity in diversity and everything that binds us together as a nation," said President Mugabe.
He hailed regional and continental bodies among them Sadc, Comesa and the African Union for supporting the country.
President Mugabe also expressed gratitude to friendly international countries whom he said always wished Zimbabwe well in its endeavours.
"Indeed, the emphatic vote that was recently reposed in the ruling revolutionary party Zanu-PF assures us that Zimbabwe shall never be a colony again. Never, never, ever!," President Mugabe said.
President Mugabe said the country's foreign policy objectives would continue to be anchored in safeguarding Zimbabwe's peace and security, sovereignty and territorial integrity and pursuit of policies that improve the standard of living of all Zimbabweans.
In adherence to these principles, President Mugabe said Zimbabwe concurred with all regional and continental organisations that have pursued regional integration, peace and security, gender equality and good governance and socio-economic transformation.
President Mugabe said Zimbabwe continued to work under the auspices of the African Union Committee of 10 in pushing for 'long overdue' reform and democratisation of the United Nations by having Africa represented in the United Nations Security Council.
Both are hailed as African liberation heroes and both preached, and were praised for, messages of reconciliation and unity when their countries threw off the shackles of white minority rule.
But while South Africa's Nelson Mandela, now 95, retired and ill in hospital, is basking in glowing world tributes, Robert Mugabe, 89, who helped turn former Rhodesia into independent Zimbabwe, is fighting to stay in power as Africa's oldest ruler.
Mugabe still defends the farm seizures as an act of national right and sovereignty, however chaotically accomplished.
In a rare interview with South African state broadcaster SABC last month, he acknowledged the seizures of white farms had been violent and disorderly, but he said they were fundamentally right to recover native land occupied by invading white settlers in the 19th century.
"After all this is our land, you see, we did not need to negotiate taking it back," he said.
By 2008, Tsvangirai's MDC and most of the world were accusing Mugabe of blatant strong-arm tactics to try to win another disputed vote. The MDC says 200 people were killed during the 2008 polls.
Even the retired Mandela - who maintains an enduring loyalty to liberation era allies like Cuba's Fidel Castro - joined the criticism of Mugabe's rule, lamenting a "the tragic failure of leadership" in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe clearly revealed his difference from Mandela in the interview aired on June 2 - barely a week before the ailing South African anti-apartheid hero returned to hospital for a recurring lung infection.
The Zimbabwean leader did not flinch from swiping at the halo of the global icon of racial harmony, saying Mandela had "gone a bit too far in doing good to the non-black communities".
"He's been too saintly, too good, too much of a saint."
His words highlight a debate in South Africa over Mandela's much-praised role in negotiating the transition from apartheid.
Some radical critics of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) say Mandela's moderation and concessions mortgaged the economic freedom of South Africa's black masses, who still suffer poverty and unemployment while much of the land and mineral wealth remains in the hands of a white and black elite.
Mandela's defenders point precisely to Zimbabwe and its damaged economy, and to the current turmoil in Egypt, as cases which underline the wisdom of his reconciliation strategy.
"(It) makes my blood boil to hear some romantic revolutionaries criticize Mandela for being too conciliatory, too soft on the whites, in negotiating our transition," South African journalist Allister Sparks, a veteran white liberal, wrote in an newspaper column this month, without naming Mugabe.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's party claimed a landslide election victory on Thursday that would secure another five years in power for Africa's oldest head of state, but its main rival said the vote was invalidated by "monumental fraud".
Wednesday's voting was peaceful across the southern African nation, but the conflicting claims heralded an acrimonious dispute over the outcome that increases the chances of a repeat of the violence that followed a contested vote in 2008.
Releasing unofficial results early in Zimbabwe is illegal, and police have said they will arrest anybody who makes premature claims. Election authorities are due to announce the official outcome by August 5.
But a senior source in 89-year-old Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, who asked not to be named, said the result was already clear.
"We've taken this election. We've buried the MDC. We never had any doubt that we were going to win," the source told Reuters by phone.
Responding to the claim, a high-ranking source in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party described the election as "a monumental fraud".
"Zimbabweans have been taken for a ride by ZANU-PF and Mugabe. We do not accept it," the source, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.
The MDC was to hold an emergency meeting later on Thursday.
As riot police took up position outside the MDC headquarters in central Harare, an independent election monitor, who also could not be named for fear of arrest, said early results were looking like a "disaster" for Tsvangirai.
Western observers were barred, but the head of an African Union monitoring mission said on Wednesday the polls had initially appeared "peaceful, orderly and free and fair" - an assessment at odds with the view of the MDC and independent agencies.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), the leading domestic monitoring body, said the credibility of the vote was seriously compromised by large numbers of people being turned away from polling stations in MDC strongholds.
It also cast doubt on the authenticity of the voters' roll, noting that 99.97 percent of voters in the countryside - Mugabe's main source of support - were registered, against just 67.9 percent in the mostly pro-Tsvangirai urban areas.
In all, 6.4 million people, nearly half the population, had been registered to vote.
"It is not sufficient for elections to be peaceful for elections to be credible," ZESN chairman Solomon Zwana told a news conference. "They must offer all citizens... an equal opportunity to vote."
QUESTION OVER SANCTIONS
Several political sources told Reuters that top MDC members had lost their parliamentary seats, including some in the capital, Tsvangirai's main support base since he burst onto the political scene in the former British colony 15 years ago.
Party insiders spoke of their shock at the result.
If confirmed, Mugabe's victory is likely to mean five more years of troubled relations with the West, where the former liberation fighter is regarded as a ruthless despot responsible for serious human rights abuses and wrecking the economy.
More than a week before the election, the United States, which has sanctions in place against Mugabe, expressed concerns about the credibility of the vote, citing persistent pro-ZANU-PF bias in the state media and partisan security forces.
The view from Brussels, London and Washington is key to the future of Zimbabwe's economy, which is still struggling with the aftermath of a decade-long slump and hyperinflation that ended in 2009 when the worthless Zimbabwe dollar was scrapped.
An easing of sanctions against Mugabe and his inner circle would allow Harare to normalize its relations with the IMF and World Bank and access the huge investment needed to rebuild its dilapidated economy.
It would also spark a rush to exploit rich reserves of minerals such as chrome, coal, platinum and gold.