It would have been the height of absurdity and quite strange if, for instance, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa – whilst, on his state visit to the US last year – had openly wished his counterpart, President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party to win the 2022 Mid-Term Elections.
That would have caused an enormous uproar and outrage amongst the entire US population – most likely, even from Democrats themselves – as they hold in high regard such tenets as democracy, and free and fair elections, without the meddling of foreign actors.
Besides, why, in the world, would Ramaphosa have a vested interest in the outcome of another country’s elections, and who gets into power?
Unless, of course, if he has something to fear from the removal of the sitting government – and, possibly, the assumption of office by a new administration that may take a closer look at all the deals their country had signed with South Africa.
Such apprehension could be motivated by the knowledge that the agreements were dubious, at best – or downright scandalous and illegal, at worse.
Therefore, if there was absolutely nothing sinister about, or to fear from, the respective deals – what reason would there be to fear a change in government?
Under normal circumstances, subsequent national administrations are, ordinarily, expected to honor and respect agreements made by previous governments.
Only in very rare instances – as witnessed under the unpredictable and volatile Donald Trump – when he, immediately after assuming office, tore apart several agreements, most notably the so-called ‘Iran Nuclear Deal’, signed by the Barack Obama administration.
Yet, here we are in Zimbabwe, where a visiting leader – who should be respecting our national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity – without an iota of shame, freely expresses his desire for President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, and obviously his ruling ZANU PF party, to win crucial harmonized elections slated for mid-2023.
One cannot help wondering (loudly, in my case) why Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko would have the audacity to tell Mnangagwa – during the signing ceremony for eight bilateral agreements between Belarus and Zimbabwe – to ‘work extremely hard to win this year’s elections…and, hope he will be able to pass through this’?
Is this guy for real!
The only question screaming loudly in my head is – what are you so terrified of President Lukashenko, in the event of your brother, Mnangagwa, being voted out of office?
I know that birds of a feather flock together (and, by extension, support each other) – since, we are dealing with rogue leaders, who have become a pariah on the global stage – through, their utter disdain and loathing for the respect of their fellow citizens’ rights, and free, fair and credible elections.
However, maybe the timing of this extremely strange speech is very telling – and, that is where all the clues are to be found.
One of those agreements signed at this occasion was a ‘contract between the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe and AFTRADE DMCC on cooperation in the supply of Belarusian tractor and grain harvesting equipment’ – this, according to ministry of information permanent secretary Ndavaningi Nick Mangwana.
The second was a ‘contract between the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe and AFTRADE DMCC for the supply of equipment manufactured in Belarus for the construction and modernization of grain storage complexes’.
Well, well, well!
There is that name again – which we have become all too familiar with here in Zimbabwe – and, definitely not in a good way!
Who can forget those crazily over-priced fire tenders – which our local government minister, July Moyo, tried to force down the throats of severely cash-strapped local authorities last year – whereby, each cost a staggering US$464,296, yet averaging a more reasonable US$26,000 in Malaysia?
With a total of 92 city, town and rural councils – someone was definitely going to be laughing all the way to the bank, to cash in a cool US$42 million cheque!
And, that someone would have been one Aleksandr Zingman – the owner of AFTRADE DMCC – a Belarusian character, whose CV is quite interesting.
More interesting than anything is that, in 2019, he was appointed Zimbabwe honorary consul in Belarus by Mnangagwa.
Furthermore, he happens to be the same chap who was arrested for 12 days in March 2021, in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) on allegations of illegal arms dealings.
As if this could not get any more zany – he has been fingered in questionable gold dealings in Zimbabwe.
In March 2018, Lukashenko dispatched his right-hand man, Viktor Sheiman, to ostensibly negotiate trade and business deals on behalf of Minsk – whereby, a gold mining agreement was subsequently struck.
Nonetheless, as it turned out, despite being touted as a government-to-government deal – it was actually between the government of Zimbabwe and Sheiman’s son, Sergei – whose company held 70 percent of the gold mining partnership, whilst the local ZMDC (Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation) only having 30 percent.
It does not stop there!
Sergei was not working alone, but together with Aleksandr Zingman – this time around, operating under the auspices of Zim Goldfields, through a UK shelf company, Midlands Goldfields Ltd.
According to the Pandora Papers, by a consortium of international investigative journalists – this shell company, owned by Sergei and Zingman, was registered in both the Seychelles and UK – supposedly to ‘mask their involvement and conflict of interest at the heart of the deal’.
Now, this is the same individual of whom, entire heads of state sat down, and signed deals – whereby, Zimbabwe agreed to restrict itself to the procurement of tractor and grain harvesting equipment, as well as ‘equipment manufactured in Belarus for the construction and modernization of grain storage complexes’ specifically, and only, from his company!
It all makes sense now!
Could this be the reason the visiting Lukashenko would publicly announce his desire for Mnangagwa to remain in office post-2023 presidential elections?
Otherwise, I honestly do not see how such a deal will not face intense scrutiny under a new government.
Surely, on what basis can a nation allow to restrict its business dealings to only one particular company – worse still, which is operated by a severely compromised character – whose track record in Zimbabwe is already tainted?
There is an urgent need for this agreement to be investigated further.
As the people of Zimbabwe, we need, and deserve, to know the nature of the terms and conditions agreed upon.
How much will cost who?
Who will have to foot the bill?
At the end of it all, who stands to benefit more – and, who will be greatest losers?
As much as the country is in huge need of tractor and grain harvesting equipment – although, I am not too sure about this so-called ‘equipment manufactured in Belarus for the construction and modernization of grain storage complexes’ – however, we cannot allow our country to be prejudiced and left poorer, through some outrageous deals!
We all know of how a hungry Esau sold his birthright and inheritance to his young brother, Jacob – all in exchange for a bowl of soup!
We cannot afford to merely stand by and watch, whilst our country is likely being mortgaged!
If all these deals were above-board, there would have been absolutely no need for Lukashenko to fear Mnangagwa’s exit!
● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: [email protected]Post published in: Featured