China has gifted Zimbabwe a new, modern parliament building to replace the current structure built during colonial times as Beijing continues to strengthen its influence over the southern African country.
The imposing structure spans 33,000 square meters and includes a six-story office complex and a four-story building housing the National Assembly and Senate.
Three bridges on each floor connect the two buildings. The National Assembly can accommodate 400 people, while the Senate Chamber accommodates 150.
It also has conference facilities, 15 committee rooms, staff offices and parking. The office building has 600 rooms that would house MPs and employees.
Constructed by Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) and fully funded by the Chinese government as a “gift to the people of Zimbabwe”, the new Parliament building is located at Mt Hampden, approximately 18 kilometers from downtown Harare, where find the old rooms.
SCG completed the buildings in 42 months, 10 months late with delays attributed to the Covid-19 outbreak.
“There is no doubt that the new parliament building will become a historic building in Zimbabwe and indeed in all of southern Africa,” said Cai Libo, the project manager of the SCG.
He said the building would be handed over to the Zimbabwean government. “The project strongly supports democracy in Zimbabwe while boosting the country’s image,” he said.
“This building is a historic building in Zimbabwe,” he added. “It is proof of the strong friendship between China and Zimbabwe.”
China Aid funded the construction through a grant.
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Zimbabwe plans to build new infrastructure near the new Parliament to decongest the capital. It will include offices for the executive, judiciary, retail and residential areas.
Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the new parliament building is a symbol of the “deep relationship” between Zimbabwe and China.
“It’s an amazing building that was made possible by a grant from the People’s Republic of China, which shows the deep relationship between the two countries,” Ms Mutsvangwa said.
“It will allow the legislature to do its job and as you know it has three mandates which are representative, legislation and oversight.”
The parliament building is China’s second major infrastructure “donation” to Zimbabwe after Beijing built the country’s biggest stadium in 1987.
Located in the capital Harare, the National Sports Stadium can hold 60,000 people, but has been banned from hosting international football matches by the Confederation of African Football due to poor maintenance.
China is also upgrading the country’s largest thermal power plant at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion. He carried out a $533 million renovation at the Kariba South Power Plant, the country’s largest hydroelectric plant.
Zimbabwe, which has an external debt of $14.4 billion, is heavily indebted to China, the only economic superpower willing to provide loans to Harare due to its poor repayment record.
In the era of the late strongman Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe adopted a “look east policy” after its economy was hit by Western isolation and sanctions over alleged violations of human rights and electoral fraud.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeded Mugabe in 2017 following a military coup.