Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday inaugurated a Chinese-funded power station that he said would go a long way in easing power shortages ahead of national elections.
Mnangagwa, 80, who is seeking a second presidential term on August 23, has been on a ribbon-cutting spree as he attempts to portray himself as a go-getter and reassure voters about the state of the economy.
He opened a coal mine on Monday and a clinic on Wednesday, before heading to the northwestern town of Hwange to officially launch the 600MW coal-fired power plant on Thursday.
Analysts expect a tense vote later this month, amid a crackdown on the opposition and a disaffected population battling hyperinflation, poverty and high unemployment.
Addressing supporters at a local stadium after the opening, Mnangagwa said the new plant would be “a critical enabler of development”, adding Zimbabwe was “open for business”.
The landlocked southern African country has for years been reeling under severe power shortages that at their worst late last year left millions of people in the dark for up to 19 hours a day.
The government declared a sudden end to blackouts in July although most people still experience daily outages lasting a couple of hours.
The new power station also allowed Mnangagwa to show he still has good friends in the international arena, where Zimbabwe is largely isolated.
The plant, the expansion a pre-existing station, is one of four energy projects undertaken with a $1.2 billion loan from China, with which Harare has ties dating back to fight for independence from Britain.
“China is always ready to help Zimbabwe to achieve its goal to uplift its people,” Chinese ambassador Zhou Ding told the stadium rally.
Zimbabwe can’t access financing from international lenders like the IMF and World Bank due to payment arrears and is the target of western sanctions over graft and rights abuses.
Mnangagwa has long blamed the punitive measures for the country’s dire straits — something the United States and Europe deny.
In Hwange he told supporters Zimbabwe would now be self-sufficient in its power needs and the government would continue to focus on growing the economy “by thinking outside the box”.