China to help Zimbabwe with food aid

China has pledged 5 000 tonnes of food aid this year to Zimbabwe, where more than four million people will soon require aid, the official Herald newspaper reported on Thursday.

Deputy Chinese ambassador Ma Deyun also said that her country and Zimbabwe wanted to increase trade to $500-million in 2008 as China expands its presence in Southern Africa.

“[2007] witnessed a steady growth of trade between our two countries and we are working together to push the trade volume to $500-million in 2008,” Deyun said at a ceremony to hand over 97 trucks ordered by the Zimbabwean government.

“Five thousand tonnes of food aid that China provides to Zimbabwe will soon arrive in Zimbabwe,” the deputy ambassador said.

She said China had pledged to build two primary schools, a hospital and an Agriculture Technical Demonstration Centre in Zimbabwe this year.

President Robert Mugabe’s government has welcomed the support of China in the face of increasing Western disapproval over alleged rights abuses and economic mismanagement in the once-prosperous Southern African country.

Zimbabwe’s economy is mired in its worst crisis since independence in 1980, blamed by many in the West on a chaotic programme of white land seizures that has seen agricultural production plummet.

The country has suffered food shortages for six years now, with 4,1-million Zimbabweans—more than one third of the population—expected to need aid soon.

Mugabe and his vice-president, Joseph Msika, call China Zimbabwe’s all-weather friend, a sentiment echoed by Deyun.

“Whether in the past, at present or in the future, the Chinese people will be an equal, sincere and reliable friend, a mutually beneficial and cooperative partner and a brother sharing weal and woe of the Zimbabwean people,” Deyun said.

Trade between the two countries has been rising in the past few years.—Sapa-dpa

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