China building military base in Zimbabwe

President Mugabe and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao inspect a Chinese presidential guard of honor.

China is building a multi-million dollar military base at Chitamba Farm in Mazowe Valley, Zimbabwe. Touted as an intelligence academy, the new facility is the largest investment in a military base here in a decade, and the biggest spend on military infrastructure in decades.on dollar intelligence academy in Zimbabwe.

The so-called Robert Mugabe National School of Intelligence, named after the veteran President, is being bankrolled by the Chinese.

“The important role of defending our country cannot be left to mediocre officers incapable of comprehending and analytically evaluating the operational environment to ensure that the sovereignty of our state is not only preserved, but enhanced,” Mugabe said at the launch of the building of the academy in October 2007.

Military sources described it as “a techno-spy and communication base”. The imposing intelligence facility is conspicuous from the Mazowe Road and is adjacent to a massive farming operation.

The facility is the largest such complex in the country, and will be operated by the Chinese and its foreign intelligence service in conjunction with Zimbabwe’s spy organ, the CIO and local military intelligence.

The facility covers several square miles. It is also here where there is the Mazowe Earth Satellite Station, Zimbabwe’s primary international telecommuncations gateway. Chinese engineers, technicians, and military personnel are working at the base. Our source claimed the base has multiple groups of tracking dishes and its own satellite system, with some groups used to intercept telephone calls, faxes, and computer communications in general, and other groups used to cover targeted telephones and devices.

He said the facility will also monitor diplomatic, domestic, commercial and military communications, but we could not independently verify these claims.  However, China does have a strong presence in many sectors in Zimbabwe, and Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei have supplied most of the country’s internet equipment.

The academy is expected to train members of the Zimbabwean army, CIO and police, as well as operatives from other southern African countries. A local farmer said: “It’s scary to have your area just taken over by the military. It’s a game changer in this place.”

Ties between the two countries date back to the 1960s – when the Chinese supported Zanla, the military wing of Zanu, with training and equipment. The ties have deepened since Zimbabwe’s political isolation from the West more than a decade ago.

China has been described as the “only major international supporter” of Zimbabwe, due to its willingness to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses. Zimbabwe’s “Look East” policy has expanded bilateral and trade relations and China is now the biggest buyer of Zimbabwean tobacco. It is also especially interested in our platinum and diamond deposits.

The government has used military hardware from China to wage war against its own people. It has purchased massive amounts of military hardware from China, including a $13 million radar system, six Hongdu JL-8 jet aircraft, 12 JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, and more than 200 military vehicles since June 2004 – with the latest acquisition said to have been bankrolled by revenue from the new-found diamond wealth.

This isn’t surprising given the close relationship between China and Zimbabwe.  Zimbabwe, a country that has literally mortgaged many of its key assets to China as it attempts to pull its economy out of free-fall, has come at a cost. Which many Zimbabweans are asking whether it’s a fair exchange as this report indicates.

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