Opaque Chinese deals: Mthuli taken to task

FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube was on Wednesday taken to task by Harare East legislator Tendai Biti (Citizens Coalition For Change) over Chinese-Zimbabwean business deals which could see the country losing minerals.

Zimbabwe has been involved in a number of business deals with China after adopting the Look East Policy in the early 2000s as a counter strategy to Western sanctions.

Biti took on Ncube after the minister had presented contradictory figures on how much the country owes China.

The Harare East legislator further pointed out a deal that Zimbabwe made with China in 2006 which saw the country getting US$200 million from the Asian country while collateralising an asset worth more than US$52 billion.

“I have two questions for the esteemed minister. You said the amounts we owe to China are about US$1,7 billion but your mathematics is not adding up because you said total indebtedness to China was US$2,7 billion and you have only paid US$152 million.

“So, if you subtract US$152 million from US$2,7 billion, it does not give you US$1,7 billion but about US$2,6 billion,” Biti queried during Wednesday’s question and answers session in the national assembly.

Ncube struggled to justify the 2006 deal saying it needed to be renegotiated.

“This arrangement was struck way back in October 2006, I think before the buoyant prices that you see in the platinum group metals sector were available for us to enjoy. So, I think in a sense, he is requesting that some of these arrangements should be looked into given the high prices that are currently out there,” Ncube responded.

“Certainly, for me as the Finance minister is something I would want to look at closely and see how best this can be structured so that a goodwill loan from China is dealt with and serviced properly on the back of a properly valued asset.”

But Zanu PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa justified the deal before tearing into Biti during a Press conference on Friday at the ruling party’s Harare headquarters.

“Recently in Parliament, a CCC MP who moonlights as a financial expert and goes by the name of Biti said Zimbabwe borrowed money from China US$200 million in 2006 . . . I was ambassador in Beijing and that loan was unsecured.

“China just gave it because they wanted Zimbabwe to get Chinese tractors. After all, we were being denied tractors by the traditional Western countries . . . they gave us a loan for two reasons, one to make us produce and two to show the Western countries that if you continue on your line you will lose your market because you are not the only ones who can produce tractors…he is as erudite in legal matters as he is illiterate in financial issues,” Mutsvangwa fumed.

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