PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s state visit to Equatorial Guinea this week, where he met the world’s longest-serving head of state, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, underlines his penchant for closely associating with dictators as well as dodgy companies and business moguls.
Mnangagwa, accompanied by several government ministers and business leaders, on Tuesday flew out to Equitorial Guinea on a three-day state visit.
It was Mnangagwa’s second visit to the central African nation two months after he attended Mbasogo’s inauguration in December last year.
Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea’s close relations began in 2004 when Harare foiled a coup attempt on Mbasogo’s government by arresting armed mercenaries at Robert Mugabe International Airport destined for Malabo.
Mbasogo seized power in 1979 after a military takeover, just like what Mnangagwa did in November 2017 when he ousted his mentor the late Robert Mugabe.
Last December he embarked on his sixth term as President of Guinea that will see him clocking a lengthy 48 years in power when it ends.
Mbasogo, upon gaining office from his predecessor and uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema, retained his relative’s absolute control over the nation.
Political opposition is barely tolerated and severely hampered by the lack of a free Press. All broadcast media is either owned outright by the government or controlled by its surrogates.
He has been widely accused of corruption and abuse of power.
Under his rule, Equatorial Guinea continues to have one of the worst human rights records in the world.
In marked contrast to the trend toward democracy in much of Africa, Equatorial Guinea is currently a dominant-party state, in which Mbasogo’s Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) holds virtually all governing power in the nation and has held all or almost all seats in the legislature since its creation.
The constitution gives Mbasogo sweeping powers, including rule by decree, effectively making him an authoritarian leader. He has placed family members in key government positions.
He faces accusations of human rights abuses and election rigging, but appears hard-pressed to use his sixth term to clean up a tattered international reputation. He abolished the death penalty last September.
According to domestic and international observers, Mbasago leads one of the most corrupt, ethnocentric and repressive regimes in the world. Equatorial Guinea is essentially a one-party state.
Although opposition parties were legalised in 1992, the legislature remains dominated by his political outfit, the PDGE, and there is no substantive opposition to executive decisions.
At present, every Senate seat and all but one seat in the Chamber of Deputies is held by the PDGE. There have never been more than eight opposition deputies in the lower house, while the PDGE has held every seat in the Senate since its inception in 2013. To all intents and purposes, Mbasogo holds all governing power.
Last week, Mnangagwa paid host to another dictator, Bularusian leader Alexander Lukasheko, who is Russiaan President Vladimir Putin’s confidante.
Lukashenko fell out with the West on 17 August 2020 when members of the European Parliament issued a joint statement saying they did not recognise him as the president of Belarus, considering him to be persona non grata in the European Union.
On 19 August 2020, the member states of the European Union agreed to not recognise the results and issued a statement noting that the presidential elections were neither free nor fair.
The governments of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada have also refused to recognise the results.
In an interview on 22 August, Josep Borrell explicitly stated that the EU does not recognise Lukashenko as the legitimate president of Belarus in the same manner that it does not recognise Nicolás Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela.
On the afternoon of 11 May 2021, Mnangagwa flew to Uganda to witness the swearing-in of that country’s President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, again associating himself with yet another dictator.
Museveni was declared winner in an election he was contested by Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, who is also known as Bobi Wine.
Museveni’s presidency has been marred by involvement in the First Congo War, the Rwandan Civil War, and other African Great Lakes conflicts; the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency in Northern Uganda, which caused a humanitarian emergency; and constitutional amendments, scrapping presidential term limits in 2005, and the presidential age limit in 2017.
Museveni’s rule has been described by scholars as competitive authoritarianism, or illiberal democracy.
The Press in Uganda has been under the authority of the government. None of the Ugandan elections for the last 30 years (since 1986) have been found to be free and transparent.
On 16 January 2021, Museveni was re-elected for a sixth term with 58.6% of the vote, despite many videos and reports that show ballot box stuffing, over 400 polling stations with 100% voter turnout, and human rights violations.
Some of the deals Mnangagwa clinched in the “New Dispensation” involve controversial business characters, including Zunaid Moti, Lucas Pouroulis and Jacco Immink.
In 2018, Moti reportedly invested US$300 million to set up a chrome extraction and processing plant in Zimbabwe along the mineral-rich Great Dyke. During that time, Moti was arrested in Germany on charges that he defrauded his former business partner Alibek Issaev an estimated US$35 million in a sham mining deal in Lebanon in 2013.
In June that year, Mnangagwa’s crony Pourolis signed a controversial US$4.2 billion deal with the government, paving way for his investment vehicle Karo Resources to grab mineral claims stretching over 23 903 hectares previously held by Zimplats along the Great Dyke.
The US$4.2 billion cost had been plucked out of thin air, raising questions over the value of the investment.
The Pourolis family holds a 42% stake in Tharisa Plc, which has managed to mobilise only US$8 million for the implementation of the platinum project.