Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad jets in Zimbabwe today on a three-day state visit to officiate a low profile trade exhibition but on top of his agenda would be outstanding loans which Zimbabwe is failing to pay.
The Iranian leader, who has courted as much controversy as his host today, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, will be accompanied by 40 business leaders from his country.
“President Ahmadinejad will arrive Thursday on a three day state visit. We are expecting Iran to open a regional investment house here in Zimbabwe and this really good news for the country and the region.
The Iranian leader will also open a tractor factory plant here which has been on the cards for a long time” government statement said this morning.
However, early Thursday, Zimbabwe foreign minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi revealed that the Iranians are after their money. But Mugabe’s government is struggling to pay its outstanding loan of 15 million euros given by Iran in 2005.
“Zimbabwe is yet to clear the 15 million euros on the agriculture and digitalisation of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation in 2005. Let me assure you that Zimbabwe will be able to meet all its outstanding arrears. This issue would be discussed during President Ahmadinejad visit,” Mumbengegwi said in his address at the 6th session of the joint commission between Zimbabwe and Iran.
The loan was used by the Zimbabwean government to finance agriculture
and to digitalise the state owned broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Corporation (ZBC) in 2005.
Zimbabwe is struggling to service its debt of about US$6 billion. And International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said it will resume funding to Zimbabwe once it clears its debt.
“The joint commission further discussed other joint ventures in the areas of manufacturing, energy, agriculture, mining and water management,” the joint statement by the two countries read.
“The joint commission agreed to establish a Joint Investment Company to identify and implement projects of mutual benefit to the two countries including areas of banking, finance and insurance.”
Ahmadinejad, will officially open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) on Friday.
Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad will arrive in Harare from Uganda where he had
been on a two-day visit for talks over his country’s nuclear programme
and Kampala’s oil industry.
Ahmadinejad was trying to garner support from Uganda, which holds one of
Africa’s UN Security Council, rotating chair to veto any imposition of sanctions against Iran over its ambitious nuclear programme.
His visit to Zimbabwe has attracted some controversy among human rights groups and the Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) party led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
They have condemned the visit by the Iranian leader, regarded in the western world as a dictator, who rigged elections last June to hang onto power.
The MDC would not say if it was going to the airport to welcome the Iranian leader whose country’s influence in Zimbabwe was growing at an alarming rate surpassing that of China in hype and visibility.
The MDC has described the visit by the Iranian leader as a “political scandal”.
The Muslim community in Zimbabwe has also been making rare appearance in the media flighting advertisements inviting Zimbabweans to join them in welcoming Ahmadinejad at the Harare International Airport.
They have offered free bus us rides from Harare suburbs to those wishing to go to the airport.