The Sunday Mail
Morris Mkwate – News Editor
President Mugabe returned home from Singapore yesterday, as Zimbabwe prepared to receive tractors worth US$300 000 from India under a deal sealed during the Head of State and Government’s October 2015 visit to the Asian subcontinent.
He was received at Harare International Airport by Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, Cabinet ministers, other senior Government officials and service chiefs.
The President was in Singapore on his way to the Indian World Culture Festival when terror threats directed at India’s NSC Bose International Airport were made.
Anonymous characters e-mailed the airport manager, threatening to bomb the establishment within 24 hours.
Reports from India indicate several other places were also targeted.
Indian authorities have been on high alert since, with cybercrime experts checking the veracity of the e-mail contents.
Though the festival proceeded, President Mugabe – the Guest of Honour – and other Heads of State, including host President Shri Pranas Mukherjee, pulled out on security grounds.
President Mugabe thus did not proceed to India, with his whereabouts between destinations remaining guarded in keeping with security norms.
The World Culture Festival celebrates multi-culturalism and highlights unity.
It is organised yearly by The Art of Living, an educational and humanitarian organisation that promotes peace via conflict resolution, disaster relief, education for all, sustainable rural development, women empowerment, environmental sustainability and prisoner rehabilitation.
Philanthropist and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of India founded the organisation in 1981, and has helped 370 million-plus people in 155 countries. Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told Zimbabwean journalists that the President wanted to take advantage of the festival to explore further bilateral economic co-operation, focusing on deals initiated at the Africa-India Summit in October 2015.
Among the deals are Bulawayo Thermal Power Station’s US$87 million upgrade, construction of a US$30 million bottling plant in Zimbabwe, nephrology training, climate change mitigation, water infrastructure expansion and textbook publishing.
Minister Mumbengegwi also spoke of President Mugabe’s itinerary, “The travels of the Head of State are never secret. When we left, the nation was so advised … A number of Heads of State had been invited and were going to attend this festival. However, after our departure from home, it then turned out that the security situation in (the Indian capital) New Delhi deteriorated.
“There had been some attacks at Kolkata Airport. It was also believed similar attacks could occur during the festival.
‘‘It was at that time that even the host President decided not to attend the function, and the other Heads of State and Government, including our own President, were also advised that there were security concerns relating to the visit.
“Of course, once the hosts express security concerns, naturally, it would not have been appropriate for Heads of State and Government to visit when the Indian capital was on security high alert. And so under those circumstances, it was not just our President, but other Heads of State and Government, including the host President, (who) decided not to attend.” Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba added: “For obvious reasons, we are not in the habit of locating the President’s whereabouts between destinations.
‘‘In any case, it was journalistic curiosity not a requirement of public information and my obligation is to give such information.”
Minister Mumbengegwi said President Mugabe was Guest of Honour “because of his global stature”, adding that his visit would have explored further bilateral co-operation.
He pointed out that as the face of Zimbabwe, the President was mandated to foster good relations with other countries.
“The invitation to the President was confirmed and the fact that this World Cultural Festival was going to be held was confirmed. It was a festival covering the whole world; there were leaders from all over the world.
“What we must appreciate is that our President was invited as the Guest of Honour among all the other Heads of State and Government. He was invited and was going to attend this festival.
‘‘He was going to be the most important personality there because of his global stature which is appreciated not only in Zimbabwe and Africa, but throughout the world, especially in the developing world.
“The second point is that our bilateral relations with India are growing. We are undertaking a number of projects with the assistance of India, and there are many others in the pipeline.”
The minister went on: “Not so long ago, Africa and India held a Summit in New Delhi and at that time, as one would recall, the President was the African Union Chair and, therefore, leader of the African states that attended. He played a key role together with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“So, this invitation became important in that the Prime Minister of India was going to open the festival and the President of India was going to close it, which meant our President would have had a very good opportunity to follow up on a number of projects which were initiated during the Africa-India Summit.
“It was not just the festival; it was also an opportunity for our two leaders to be able to interact again in a much more informal environment and it would have provided much more time to follow up on a number of bilateral projects and, of course, on various international issues that they were going to raise with each other.So, the visit was important in terms of the stature of our President as well as the bilateral relations between ourselves and India.”
He went on, “The Head of State is the Chief Diplomat of any country. He is the one who gives substance to our relations. Apart from being the head of the country, he is also the head and source of our diplomatic activities. Therefore, the interactions between Heads of State and Government are extremely important in boosting relations among countries.
“You know how important the visit by President Mugabe to China 18 months ago and the visit by President Xi Jinping to Zimbabwe have boosted relations between our two countries. Similarly, after the Africa-India Summit, where our two leaders had an opportunity to meet and discuss, this would have been an important occasion to follow up on the bilateral relations between our two countries.”
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to India, Mr Maxwell Ranga, revealed that as part of Indo-Zimbabwe co-operation, tractors worth US$300 000 would soon be delivered to Harare. He said Sonalika Tractors of India and Glenwood Agriculture — a Harare-based farming implement supplier — were jointly working on a massive agro-equipment supply model.
“Sonalika Tractors, which manufactures tractors and other farm implements, met His Excellency, the President RG Mugabe, during the (India-Africa Summit) in October 2015 and they have agreed to establish a tractor assembly plant and production of agriculture equipment in Zimbabwe. The tractor company has since partnered with a Zimbabwean company called Glenwood which has since procured tractors worth US$300 000 and are now at Beira Port, ready for picking to Zimbabwe. The two companies are now working towards a bigger project through a buyers’ credit of about USD40 million.”Since President Mugabe’s October 2015 visit to India, the following have been achieved: an US$87 million line of credit for Bulawayo Thermal Power Station’s upgrade was signed;
a buyer’s credit of US$113 million for Munyati Power Station was approved in November 2015;
Indian firm Varun Pepsi Beverages Limited has indicated readiness to build a US$30 million bottling plant. A groundbreaking ceremony in Harare followed on November 13, 2015, and the plant is now under construction and will create 5 000 jobs by 2018. Varun Pepsi is also set to go into agro-industry, solar energy and healthcare, increasing its investment to about US$250 million. Modalities to install solar power grid are being determined, while the same investor, through Medenta Hospital, is working on setting up a diagnosis centre in Zimbabwe;
doctors and nurses from Chitungwiza General Hospital are being trained in nephrology by Apollo Group of Hospitals and will thereafter be able to conduct kidney transplants back home. Apollo also agreed to set up health institutions in Zimbabwe, something expected to reduce medical tourism to India in the long run;
Kirloskar Pvt Ltd secured two buyers’ credit loans (US$29 million for irrigation and US$38 million for water supply services covering seven catchment areas) from Exim Bank of India;
a joint venture between Zimbabwe’s Kingston’s Publishers and India’s S Chand Group is being finalised. S Chand Group prints over 50 million books yearly;
the Indian Government has indicated interest in contract farming in Zimbabwe;
ASG Eye Hospital agreed to bring state-of-the-art equipment to Zimbabwe and open an eye clinic;
India now recognises Zimbabwe School Examinations Council qualifications as entry requirements into its universities;
Sonalika Tractors, partnering Glenwood, agreed to establish a tractor assembly plant in Zimbabwe; and
The Rotary Club of Delhi has offered free cardiac surgery to 10 Zimbabwean children.