China’s military met with Zimbabwe army chief before coup

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe (R) maintained close relations until the coup that placed Mugabe under house arrest this week. File Photo by Aaron Ufumeli/EPA

Nov. 18 (UPI) — Africa’s No. 1 foreign investor could have had a hand in the military-led coup in Zimbabwe that placed former President Robert Mugabe under house arrest.

Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwe’s army commander, met with senior Chinese military officials before he led the Zimbabwean military to seize control of power in Harare and detain Mugabe, CNN reported Friday.

Speculation is growing that Beijing’s Gen. Li Zuocheng, who met with Chiwenga, may have backed the coup, after Li told Chiwenga Zimbabwe and China are “all-weather friends,” according to the report.

Since the meeting and the coup, China has not publicly condemned the ousting of Mugabe from power, according to The Guardian.

Wang Xinsong, an analyst on policy at Beijing Normal University, said the Chinese government has been carefully watching domestic infighting among Zimbabwe’s factions and was concerned about friction building up in the Mugabe regime.

China, which owns many assets in Zimbabwe, may have been nervous following the introduction of an “indigenization” law that would have allowed the Zimbabwean government to seize foreign-owned assets in the country, according to the report.

“Since Mugabe took power, he has been consistently supported by the Chinese government. China has become the second-largest trading partner with Zimbabwe and has invested very largely in the country,” Wang said.

But the increasingly powerful Grace Mugabe, the first lady, may have been making Beijing nervous.

G40, the faction supporting Grace, was believed to be creating instability in the country.

China could have used its powerful economic leverage to control the situation, Wang said.

Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, and may have assets hidden away in Hong Kong, a favorite shopping destination of the first lady, according to The Guardian.

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