ZIMBABWE'S quest for Chinese assistance to pull the country out of the current economic meltdown characterised by a swingeing liquidity crunch gathered momentum this week with the departure of ministers to China ahead of President Robert Mugabe's state visit to the Asian economic powerhouse.
While Mugabe is scheduled to depart tomorrow for Beijing to seal a US$4 billion cash bailout, the ministerial delegation, which sits on the Zimbabwe-China Joint Permanent Commission is focusing more on securing Chinese participation in the implementation of various capital projects across key sectors in water, energy and construction, among others.
The joint commission consists of senior government officials from the two countries and in the case of Zimbabwe, ministers from the economic cluster are all members. These include Finance, Agriculture, Industry, Mines, Transport, and Foreign Affairs whose minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi is the leader of the delegation.
Government sources told the Zimbabwe Independent on Monday that the group, which includes ministers Patrick Chinamasa (Finance), Mumbengegwi and Mike Bimha (Industry and Commerce) left for China on Tuesday.
"The ministers left on Tuesday and their discussions with their Chinese counterparts will mainly focus on how that country can assist in the implementation of large-scale projects in construction, engineering, water and power generation," the source said.
"Their discussions will also lay the groundwork for the president's own visit which will hopefully lead to the announcement of the US$4 billion rescue package for Zimbabwe."
Chinamasa and Mumbengegwi's mobile phones were unreachable while Deputy Foreign Affairs minister Chris Mutsvangwa referred questions to the ministry's permanent secretary Joey Bimha whom he said had been in the "cockpit of the preparations" for the conference.
Bimha confirmed that the ministers left on Tuesday for the Zimbabwe-China Joint Permanent Commission meeting in Beijing, China.
"My minister left today (Tuesday) along with Chinamasa for discussions with their Chinese counterparts in the Zimbabwe-China Joint Permanent Commission," said Bimha.
"The commission will hold discussions to try to identify areas where China and Zimbabwe can co-operate especially in the implementation of projects. You may have heard that the Chinese do not give money directly but their companies can implement various projects across key sectors which will then be loans owed to them by Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwean government wants to speed up the implementation of various projects including the Hwange Thermal power plant as well as dams such as Kunzvi, which could end Harare's perrennial water woes.
Government was last month forced to cancel a billion-dollar tender awarded to a Chinese company, China Machinery Engineering Company, for the expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station. This was after it emerged that the company did not have funds for the project despite winning the tender which was subsequently given to the second highest bidder, Sino Hydro of China.