by Gretinah Machingura
HARARE, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday commissioned the construction of Zimbabwe's new parliament building in Mt. Hampden, 25 km west of the capital Harare, by Chinese firm Shanghai Construction Group.
The Chinese government will provide about 100 million U.S. dollars grant for the construction of the new parliament structure, the largest building to be funded by Chinese government in a southern African country.
The Zimbabwean government will chip in with about 10 million dollars for offsite infrastructure such as residential areas, shopping centers, access roads and electricity and water provision as it moves to establish a self-contained new city in the area to decongest the capital Harare.
The 650-seat building will replace the 100-seat building built during the colonial era which has become smaller for parliament business and can no longer accommodate the 350 parliamentarians and staff members.
The new structure will have extra facilities for conferencing, 12 committee rooms and adequate space for office staff and parking.
President Mnangagwa said the long-awaited new building will enable parliamentarians to fully execute their legislative roles and further entrench democratic tenets in the country.
It will also resolve the congestion challenge in the current bicameral parliament building, he said.
"We express our profound gratitude to the Chinese government for their continued support of our various developmental programs. We commend the Belt and Road Initiative under which infrastructure development projects such as this one, are being undertaken in emerging economies," he said.
He said the new spacious parliament building will, upon completion, undoubtedly improve the comfort of its users and change the ambience around which parliamentary business is conducted.
The president said the relocation of Parliament to Mt. Hampden will be a catalyst for subsequent developments throughout the area as government will also put structures for two other arms of the state - the executive and the judiciary.
Chinese charge d'affaires in Zimbabwe Zhao Baogang said the new parliament building, with a floor space of 33,000 square meters, six floors and two congress halls and other facilities, will greatly enhance the working conditions of the Zimbabwe parliament.
He said the parliament project will take 32 months to complete.
"The honorable MPs will work harder for the new legislations and make greater contribution to the institutional building of this country," he said.
He added that the new parliament building represents the arduous efforts of the new Zimbabwe government to propel economic development and turn Zimbabwe into a middle income status by 2030.
"This is not just a landmark building in this area, it marks the start of construction of a new city of Harare. Within a few years, a new Harare will take shape. It will attract more visitors into this country.
"With strong leadership and hard work, Zimbabwe will regain its past glory, becoming a middle income country, one of the major economies in Africa, an envy by many African countries," Zhao said.
As Zimbabwe has become one of the 140 countries that have signed BRI cooperation agreements with China, Zhao hoped that Zimbabwe will get more benefits under the cooperative framework.
Zimbabwe, he said, had done everything to ensure that Zimbabwe-China relations set an example for bilateral relations between China and other African countries.
"I believe Zimbabwe will continue to enjoy the special treatment from China," he said.
Zimbabwe's two vice presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi attended the ground breaking ceremony, among other dignitaries.