China has gifted Zimbabwe with a new modern Parliament building to replace the current structure built during the colonial era as Beijing continues strengthening its influence on the southern African country.
The imposing structure sits on 33,000 square metres and comprises a six-storey office complex and a four-storey building housing the National Assembly and Senate.
Three bridges on each floor link the two buildings. The National Assembly can accommodate 400 people, while the Senate chamber seats 150.
It also has conferencing facilities, 15 committee rooms, staff office space, and a car parking area. The office building has 600 rooms that would house Members of Parliament and employees.
Built 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 in Mt Hampden, about 18 kilometres from Harare city centre, where the old chambers are.
SCG completed the buildings in 42 months, 10 months behind schedule with the delays attributed to the outbreak of Covid-19.
“There will be no doubt that the new Parliament building will become a landmark building in Zimbabwe and even in the whole of southern Africa,” said Cai Libo, the SCG project manager.
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 landmark building in Zimbabwe,” he added. “This is a show of a solid friendship between China and Zimbabwe.”
China Aid funded the construction through a grant.
Zimbabwe plans to build new infrastructure near the new Parliament to decongest the capital. It will include offices of the Executive, Judiciary, shopping and residential areas.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the new Parliament building is a symbol of “deep relations” between Zimbabwe and China.
“This is an amazing building which has been made possible by a grant from the People’s Republic of China, which shows the deep relations between the two countries,” Mrs Mutsvangwa said.
“This will enable the legislature to do their work, and as you are aware, they have three mandates which are representative, making legislation and oversight.”
The Parliament building is the second major infrastructure “donation” to Zimbabwe by China after Beijing constructed the country’s biggest stadium in 1987.
Located in the capital Harare, the National Sports Stadium can seat 60,000 people, but it was banned from hosting international football matches by the Confederation of African Football because of poor maintenance.
China is also upgrading the country’s largest thermal power station at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion. It made a $533 million refurbishment at the Kariba South power station, the country’s largest hydropower.
Zimbabwe, which has an external debt of $14.4 billion, is heavily indebted to China, the only economic superpower willing to extend loans to Harare due to its poor repayment record.
During the late strongman Robert Mugabe’s era, Zimbabwe adopted a ‘Look East Policy’ after its economy took a hit from isolation and sanctions by Western countries due to alleged human rights violations and electoral fraud.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over from Mugabe in 2017 following a military coup.