China & Zimbabwe: Guns & Stadiums


China’s ties to the nation of Zimbabwe have been formal since ZANU-PF received military training and support from the Chinese government during the independence. President Robert Mugabe has visited China in 1980,1981,1985,1987, 1993 and 1999 and the two countries share amicable relations. “The two economies of China and Zimbabwe are strongly complementary and the two countries face good opportunities for co-operation,” said Wu Bangguo, one of China’s top legislators, after completing a series of agreements in 2004.  Recently, the Chinese have renovated Zimbabwe’s National Sports Stadium for the 2010 World Cup Soccer tournament being held in South Africa.  Zimbabwe hopes to use the venue as a practice field for teams attending the event.  According to the Zimbabwe Football Association, “a number of teams including Brazil and New Zealand had expressed an interest” in using 60,000 seat facility.

In April 2008, the Chinese government came under international scrutiny, for shipping 77 tons of weapons to the country.  The ship was denied port in neighboring countries and forced to return back to China. The shipment contained “3.5-million rounds of ammunition for AK-47 assault rifles and for small arms, 1,500 40-mm rockets, 2,500 mortar shells of 60-mm and 81-mm caliber, as well as 93 cases of mortar tubes.” Some African Union observers believe this arms order could indicate Zimbabwe “may soon be wrecked by a vengeful Mugabe’s post-election military crackdown on his own people.” The Peoples Liberation Army has patrolled with Zimbabwean National Army soldiers in Mutare before and during a general strike called for by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

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