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China begins secret underground airbase construction in Zimbabwe - Report

by Itai Mushekwe/ Mary-Kate Kahari
16 Dec 2014 at 06:27hrs | Views

COLOGNE/ HARARE - China has now reportedly began construction work of a state of the art underground military airbase, in the diamond rich Marange fields in eastern Zimbabwe, The Telescope News reported on Tuesday.

Marange diamond fields are located near Chiadzwa village as seen on the satellite image of the mine and airstrip taken on November 12, 2012 in the pictured photograph on our headline story, courtesy of DigitalGlobe via Getty Images. Experts say the diamond fields, are one of the world's largest finds, but have however been soiled by allegations of egregious human rights violations at the mine by government, corruption and militarisation in ownership, causing rights groups to label them as "blood diamonds".

The high-tech airbase if true becomes arguably, one of Beijing's most important military assets on African soil, also the first of it's kind on the continent said to be equipped with advanced radar systems, an operational control tower among other world class aviation technology facilities.

Aerial picture of the massive Marange airstrip.

It is also coming to light that the massive Zimbabwe military installation, could be an experiment by China, to rival and counter the United States ninth unified combatant command - U.S. Africa Command or Africom - set up in 2007 and is however based in Stuttgart, Germany, as the battle for military supremacy and presence in Africa by the two world powers ratchets up, while both move to secure a cocktail of their strategic economical and political interests on the continent, high level military informants have disclosed.

Fresh details provided last week by senior army officers based at the 3 Brigade base in Mutare, who requested not to be named, to protect their jobs, as they are not authorised to speak to the media directly, suggested to our reporter visiting the city not far from Marange that the Chinese Red Army, could have began construction of the military base in secret, as early as 2008, when the world thought Beijing was only building an airstrip at the site for alleged clandestine weapons shipments into the country, in return for the precious gems.

"Ask yourself why the Marange diamonds fields still remain a high level security zone, despite official reports from the authorities that the diamonds here have run out?" said one of our informants.

"The other thing is that the whole area is inaccessible without approval from the top, even for journalists. We still have a significant number of Chinese military personnel based there as well, and strongly believe construction of an underground airbase facility started around 2008. During that time everyone was distructed with the diamond rush and presidential elections, enabling this secret to be kept intact."

As first reported by The Telescope News, on 17 February 2014, Beijing was at the time believed to be planning to build an airbase in Zimbabwe, and hitherto it is apparent the construction might have already been underway, under the cover of darkness since 2008.

Other military officials speaking to us when we broke the first story, said details of the airbase plan and progress were sketchy, and mostly classified due to the veil of secrecy around President Robert Mugabe's relationship, with China's Red Army.

Henchmen: Members of the Chinese military are reportedly still present in Zimbabwe.

"It's one of those things we gather is being planned in secret," said a senior Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) officer in the capital when we did the first piece. "This could be a follow up to a military treaty signed between China and Zimbabwe in July 2005, for the construction of a bonded warehouse for the Air Force of Zimbabwe. We believe the Chinese airbase is going to be built underground, for reasons best known to our partners and the top leadership."

The Chinese Ambassador was unreachable the whole day yesterday for comment, with a staffer from the Defence Attaché of China in Zimbabwe, insisting on a face to face interview with our reporter, only after the Christmas holidays.

China and America's increased military drive in Africa could be as a result of ensuring their energy security, especially having access to secure oil supplies for their economies.

According to a recent U.S National Intelligence Council estimation, Washington is expected to be importing a quarter of the country's oil from West Africa by 2015. Another U.S. Department of Energy study has also projected that African oil production would rise 91 percent between 2002 and 2025.

China on the other hand is experiencing an equal growing appetite to quench her petroleum thirst from African sources. The four major African suppliers to China recently in order of importance were Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, and Sudan.

Apart from the reported airbase, China now has a special country desk for her citizens in the country, with the police in Harare, and has also built a massive cyber military facility in Mazowe, dubbed the Robert Mugabe School of Intelligence.

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