China denies role in Zimbabwe coup

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BEIJING – China’s Foreign Ministry has denied playing a role in the recent political developments in Zimbabwe that led to the ouster of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe.

“China always upholds the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs and this remains unchanged,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Monday while congratulating Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Geng also denied claims that a visit by Zimbabwe’s army chief General Constantine Chiwenga shortly before the political crisis erupted in Harare earlier this month was a sign of China’s role in the developments that led to Mugabe’s house arrest.

Geng said Chiwenga’s visit was pre-planned and had nothing to do with the political situation in Zimbabwe.

“It was planned long before and it was also approved by the former president Mugabe,” said the official, adding that the visit was a “normal interaction.”

For nearly half a century, China has maintained a huge influence in Zimbabwe as it originally supported anti-colonial guerrilla fighters in the 1960s and then helped their leader Mugabe rise to power in the South African country.

Beijing backed Mugabe during his 37 years in power and has been among Zimbabwe’s major trade partners.

Mnangagwa, who served as Mugabe’s deputy for years, also received training in China during the liberation struggle of the 1960s.

The spokesman said Mnangagwa, whose sacking by Mugabe sparked the political unrest in Zimbabwe, could further steer Zimbabwe toward progress.

“We congratulate President Mnangagwa on his inauguration … We firmly support Zimbabwe following a path that supports its own national conditions and we believe under the leadership of Mr Mnangagwa Zimbabwe … national development will make further progress,” Geng said.