Zimbabwe: Chinese Shopping Mall Guarded

A construction project by a Chinese company near the National Sports Stadium in Harare has joined the league of government buildings which are guarded by military personnel amid claims that it belongs to the army.

The Standard news crew recently got in trouble with soldiers guarding the site after being spotted taking pictures of the building complex, which is said to be a shopping mall.

Clad in full military combat, one of the soldiers charged towards the journalists demanding to know why they were taking pictures of the place without permission.

He tried to seize the camera that was being used in taking the pictures but ended up settling for a handbag belonging to one of the reporters after failing to grab the camera. The soldier took the handbag to an official who was not in uniform, who seemed to be his boss.

To get the handbag back, the journalists were advised to get inside the site and talk to the Chinese officials, something they rejected fearing for their safety.

"If you do not know, you will never win a case against the Chinese," the uniformed officer said. "You may not be aware that this project belongs to the army. I am not here on personal business but under instruction."

The official in civilian clothes threatened to call his "boss" so that they could deal with the reporters.

However, the journalists were given back the handbag and allowed to go after being forced to delete all the pictures they had taken.

Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) spokesperson Alphios Makotore yesterday demanded that questions be delivered to his office on hard copy.

He said he would only be able to attend to them tomorrow.

Anjin board member, Munyaradzi Machacha on Friday said the company recently beefed up security at the construction site after losing a lot of building material to thieves.

"Every property owner wants privacy, that is why we do not allow people to take pictures," Machacha said. "Because it is still under construction, the place is not yet open to the public and thus we do not expect anyone to be taking pictures.

He added: "If one is a bona fide journalist, all they need to do is come to us and our public relations personnel will facilitate their access to the place. We have materials worth millions of dollars at that place therefore we tightened security to avoid further thefts."

Machacha said the project was jointly owned by a Chinese mining company, Anjin and China's Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Company (AFECC).

"It is not true that it belongs to the army," Machacha said. "It is an Anjin-AFECC investment, AFECC being the company which built the defence college and a partner of the Zimbabwean government."

Machacha said the building would soon be open to the public, starting with a shopping mall and offices. He said a hotel would follow later.

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