Beijing reportedly launched a tourism project Tuesday as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) expected to bring at least 350 Chinese tourists each month into chaos-ridden Zimbabwe, a nation gripped by bloody unrest triggered by the government raising fuel prices to the highest in the world.
Dubbed the “Tour Africa-New Horizon,” the project is part of the BRI, also known as the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project, which the United States believes to be a vehicle for Beijing’s predatory lending practices used to bury nations in debt and undermine their sovereignty.
“It is in the spirit of this noble [BRI] initiative that we are launching the grand Tour Africa-New Horizon Project, which will see us receiving 350 Chinese tourists every month as from March 2019,” Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira declared Tuesday, according to the New Zimbabwe newspaper.
The minister explained that Zimbabwe is managing the initiative in collaboration with Ethiopian Airlines, expected to provide charter flights for the tourists to travel through Djibouti, home to China’s first overseas military base; Tanzania; and Zimbabwe.
Mupfumira noted, “The final destination being Zimbabwe, the tourists will enjoy the majestic Victoria Falls and other scenic beauties provided by nature Zimbabwe.”
“Part of the large Chinese delegation will include investors who are coming to scout the environment while enjoying our unique tourist attractions,” she also said, adding, “The interaction also seeks to establish cultural ties with the East and promote cultural exchange programs between the two countries.”
The United States has repeatedly accused China of using “debt traps” across Africa to erode the borrower countries’ sovereignty, mainly through BRI — a project that aims to link Beijing to Europe and possibly the Western Hemisphere through a massive network of land and sea routes through Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as whole.
Zimbabwe’s launch of China’s tourism project came amid deadly unrest in the African country that erupted last week in response to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to more than double fuel prices.
The ruling Zanu PF party and the MDC Alliance opposition blame one another for the violence that has so far killed at least 12 people and wounded more than 300 others, the Associated Press (AP) notes.
Furthermore, the government has reportedly arrested more than 600 people for alleged involvement in the protests.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), a constitutional body established by the country’s government, accused the nation’s police and military of using “systematic torture” against mainly young men during last week’s anti-government demonstrations.
In his first comments after cancelling a scheduled appearance at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this week over the riots, President Mnangagwa defended the fuel hike that triggered the chaos, Africa News reveals.
Via Twitter, the president reportedly declared, “It was the right thing to do. … Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated. Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll.”
Furthermore, Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday that the Mnangagwa administration is “determined” to press on with the economic reforms despite the bloody protests, a move that is likely to prolong the chaos.
AP reports that Zimbabwe is facing “a new wave of unrest as the group representing [an estimated 500,000] government workers announced on Wednesday that civil servants across the country will go on strike starting Friday after salary negotiations failed.”
Reportedly, there are rumours of an impeachment attempt potentially organised by the embattled president’s party.
“Zimbabwe is open for business,” the country’s finance minister insisted on Tuesday, according to AFP.
“Ncube said investors could see Zimbabwe’s potential given its well-educated workforce, especially in mining, tourism, energy, telecoms, and infrastructure,” the news outlet reveals.
On Tuesday, George Charamba, a spokesman for Zimbabwe’s president, surmised that the recent protests are a part of a sinister conspiracy by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to forcibly reshape “the politics of the African continent to make them useful to western imperial interests,” Bulawayo 24 news reports.
“Using coercive diplomacy and coercive politics, to compel independent African states to identify with Trump’s America first policy and thirdly where the two fail, to use a combination of instability and war to achieve the same,” he said.
He claimed the governments of Zimbabwe, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) “are supposed to fall within a week as part of United States’ aggressive plan against the continent.”
Judd Devermont from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and other experts warned U.S. lawmakers last month that China is using its economic clout in Africa to promote a “new international order” and encourage countries to adopt its communist ideology.