Mnangagwa leverages power to promote Belarus first family business investments
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has positioned First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and his children at the centre of cutting pure family business deals with Belarus using influence of his State power, The NewsHawks can reveal.
This week it emerged Auxillia flew out of the country with her twin children, Sean and Collins, to hold separate meetings with Belarus Head of State Alexander Lukashenko and his Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Aleinik on pure personal deals using her proximity to power in Harare.
However, according to Belarus media house Belta, Auxillia discussed issues involving business deals in agriculture, technology and mining.
In another development that showed how Mnangagwa is using state power to cement First Family business ties, in February he was captured by the media arriving in Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, with his son Emmerson Junior.
Equatorial Guinea is ruled by Teodoro Obiang Nguema & his son Teodoro Jnr who is Vice President- an arrangement Mnangagwa will be happy to stich back home in Harare.
Early this year, Mnangagwa and Lukashenko met in Harare. Emmerson Jnr attended high level meetings at State House despite not being a government official amid concern that he was pursuing family business interests.
Emmerson Jr was again spotted the following day at another high-level event where Lukashenko and his delegation visited the National Heroes’ Acre to lay wreath on the grave of unknown soldiers.
While the Heroes’ Acre event included scores of other ordinary citizens, it was his presence at the State House closed-door meetings which raised eyebrows.
Lukashenko in a statement after meeting Auxillia and her sons Sean and Collins in Minsk recently, confirmed that he had clinched deals which he had negotiated with Mnangagwa in Harare during his February visit.
Lukashenko in a statement made it clear that the deals which Auxillia had followed up in Belarus had been made on his friendship basis with Mnangagwa in Harare which implies that were personal and not for the Zimbabwean government.
“Dear Mrs Auxillia Mnangagwa, as we agreed with the president, you are in Belarus today on a very important visit. I am fulfilling the request of my friend President Emmerson so that the technologies that are in demand in Zimbabwe are in your country. We are ready to help you implement several projects at the request of your country and your president to build high-tech enterprises. First of all, this concerns humanitarian activities.”
Controversial businessman, Alekzander Zingman, who is a close ally to Mnangagwa and is the Zimbabwe’s Consul in Belarus, was present in the meetings that Auxillia attended with his children in Belarus.
For the first time, Auxillia left behind state media journalists in the jaunt, cementing the narrative that the visit was purely over interests of the First Family despite the fact that the trip was state sponsored.
Mnangagwa has long standing business ties with both Lukashenko.
The deals are facilitated through Zingman, also Zimbabwe’s honorary consul in Minsk, Belarus’ capital.
Zingman in June last year was awarded a deal by the Zimbabwean government worth US$62 million to supply local authorities countrywide with fire engines.
Local Government minister July Moyo, who is Mnangagwa’s ally from Midlands, was accused of circumventing the public tendering system by ordering rural and urban councils to divert devolution funds to pay for fire engines from a Belarusian company owned by Zingman.
The murky arrangement, which Moyo said was a “government-to-government” agreement, could cost the councils over US$32 million.
The deal did not go to tender. The fire engines were being marketed by Zingman’s AFRATRADE DMCC and manufactured by a Belarusian company, LLC Pozhsnab. Following a public outcry over the deal, the government has not stated further details, but the City of Harare and other local authorities have made it clear, they are unhappy with the arrangement.
Zimbabwe’s bilateral cooperation with Belarus involves supplies of trucks, buses and mining vehicles and equipment, tractors and food stuff amid prospects of joint projects in agriculture, construction, energy, mining and exploration, and transportation, as well as in education and health.
In March 2018, Lukashenko dispatched his right-hand man Viktor Sheiman to Zimbabwe to negotiate trade and business deals on behalf of Belarus.
Sheiman has been one of Lukashenko’s closest allies since the 1994 electoral campaign that brought the strongman to power.
While serving as Belarus’ prosecutor-general in 2004, Sheiman was sanctioned by the EU over the disappearance of several prominent Lukashenko critics, and the US followed suit two years later.
But he was under no such restrictions in Zimbabwe.
After Sheiman returned from Harare, Belarus’ state-owned news agency said he had met with Zimbabwean officials to discuss “expanding economic cooperation” between the two countries, and that he had brokered an opportunity for “the creation of a mining enterprise.”
Sheiman told Belarusian state television that the trip had produced deals to explore for minerals such as gold, platinum, and rare earths through a joint venture in mining.
The mining deal was presented as a collaboration between the two countries, and Sheiman said it was intended to make “profit for Belarus.”
But in fact, the new joint venture, Zim Goldfields, was secretly co-owned by Sheiman’s son, Sergei, with no stake for the Belarusian state. Sergei Sheiman’s partner in the gold venture was Zingman, who is close to Mnangagwa’s family.
Zingman was detained for 12 days in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in March last year. A press release by his Dubai-based company, Aftrade DMCC, denied that the reason for the incident was arms dealing.
He was released without charge. Documents from the Pandora Papers — a massive leak to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists of nearly 12 million documents from 14 offshore corporate service providers, shared with media partners around the world — show how the two Belarusians used shell companies in the Seychelles and the United Kingdom to mask their involvement and the conflict of interest at the heart of the gold deal.
Thirty percent of Zim Goldfields was held by Zimbabwe’s state-owned mining company, the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and 70% was controlled by a UK shell company called Midlands Goldfields Limited.
Its ownership was masked by a proxy — UK records name Robert Michael Friedberg as the director of the company — but leaked documents from the Pandora Papers show that Friedberg was acting on behalf of its owners as a nominee for a Seychelles entity with a similar name: Midlands Goldfields Foundation.
In January 2019, Mnangagwa visited Belarus where the two leaders discussed business issues, culminating in companies owned by Lukashenko’s close associates getting lucrative deals in agriculture and gold mining.
Last year in December Harare announced that it was concluding a framework to award the Eastern European country a tender to construct a 100-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant in Norton.
The Belarus Solar Power Plant was granted national project status and was given cabinet greenlight to be undertaken through Zesa Holdings.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa at the last post-cabinet briefing for 2022 said Zimbabwe had entered into what she called a Joint Permanent Commission with Belarus that would see the two countries trading in various sectors, including wildlife, for the next five years with a possibility of renewing the partnership.
In January this year Zimbabwe’s cabinet announced it was discussing strengthening trade and cooperation with Belarus. The deal, like the solar power plant construction, was once again negotiated by Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi.