Alexander Zingman and Emmerson Mnangagwa

Alexander Zingman was made Honourary Consul of Zimbabwe to the Republic of Belarus in January 2019. Zingman earned this prestige not because of having the right friends but because of his sheer commitment to furthering ties between two nations so close to his heart. At the ceremony to open the Honorary Consul in Minsk, Zingman said to President Emmerson Mnangagwa: “Your Excellency, we want to assure you that we will strengthen relations between our beautiful motherland Belarus, and your beautiful country Zimbabwe.”[1]

Background

Zingman is a dual US and Belarus citizen, and his arrest has led to intense diplomatic activity. The Congolese source said the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe were both applying pressure for his release. However, the Congolese official said, they were “holding on to him for now”. Mystery and international intrigue surround the arrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of Alexander Zingman, a businessman and alleged arms dealer with close links to Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

Business Interests

Alexander Zingman is a veteran entrepreneur, based in Minsk and Dubai, who has worked hard to promote stronger Zimbabwe-Belarus bilateral ties, as well as relations with half a dozen sub-Saharan countries and Egypt. He is a major shareholder of the Dubai-based AFTRADE DMCC (which has a representative bureau in Minsk that liaises with all of Belarus’ leading manufacturers), helped put together a $58m agriculture package deal in 2018 between Minsk and Harare that is greatly improving Zimbabwe’s food security situation. According to a press release from the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in Pretoria, South Africa dated June 25, 2020, Mr. Zingman reported that the multi-faceted trade agreement is revolutionizing Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector. He noted that the initial shipment of Belarus’s most advanced farm machinery arrived in Harare in 2019. That delivery included 20 harvesters for grain and maize, 100 tractors, and 52 seed drills. A second shipment was scheduled for December 2020. Minsk, through Belarus’ provided the long-term financing for the acquisition of the agricultural equipment.

Assisting Zimbabwe in getting deals from Belarus

Most Zimbabweans, farmers and those involved in the agriculture sector are not aware, but much of the help and assistance they have received is a result of deals signed with the Belarusian Government, with the help of Alexander Zingman. In March 2020, agreements were signed with the Belarusian Government to come to Zimbabwe and identify prime horticultural land for farming and exporting produce globally while capacitating local farmers.

Belarus is investing in local agro-processing, crop and livestock production, input supply and local manufacturing of farm mechanisation and irrigation equipment. Apart from engaging in farming, the Belarusians will also enter into joint ventures with local farmers, after the authorities realised that most black farmers who benefited from the 2000 fast-track land reform programme had failed to produce enough for our country, now considered one of the most food insecure nations, according to the World Food Programme.

Diamond heist from Harare to Minsk

Between 2006 and 2016, the share of African gold in the UAE's reported gold imports increased from 18 percent to nearly 50 percent. The UAE reported gold imports from 46 African countries for 2016 at a total rate of US$7.4 billion worth of gold, while trading in gold accounts for nearly one-fith of UAE's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The UAE's main commodity marketplace is the Dubai Multi-Commodities Centre (DMCC) and its head of commodities Sanjeev Duttta said in January 2020 that they were building strategic relationships with most gold-producing countries on the African continent.

Even though the high level of instability and shady business, some borderline investors have been drawn to the opportunities embodied in Zimbabwe as a vast free trade area. The most prominent of them is Alexander Zingman who holds both Belarusian and American citizenship. Zingman as close ties with the Zimbabwean and Belarusian top political elites. Smart Jet Aviation Flight records show that Zingman hosted Emmerson and Leya Mnangagwa on his M-ABEC private jet in July 2018. Zingman has been invited to President Mnangagwa's house multiple times.

According to open source media, Emmerson Mnangagwa Junior was a guest at Zingman's chic restaurant , Falcone, in Minsk. Although his attempt to remain under the radar, Social Media photographs expose his presence in many acute cooperation milestones between Zimbabwe and Belarus between 2017 and 2019. First, Zingman attended the March 2018 summit in which Belarus Chief of Presidential Affairs, Victor Sheiman, and President Mnangagwa signed $68 million worth of deals across various economic sectors.

Zingman was spotted again on the September 2018 visit of Sheiman to Mnangagwa's residency to discuss previously signed deals. Zingman and Sheiman met with Winston Chitando, the then Energy and Power Development Minister Jorum Gumbo, and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor John Mangudya. A year later, a video uploaded by ZBC News revealed that Zingman took part in the creation of the joint venture to create a Zimbabwean-Belarusian transport company for the delivery of goods from Zimbabwe to Mozambique.[2]

Arrest

Zingman was arrested by Congolese police in Lubumbashi after meeting with former president Joseph Kabila. Zingman has previously been mentioned in media reports in connection with arms deals in Zambia and Zimbabwe – which he has denied. A source close to the administration of DRC President Felix Tshisekedi confirmed Zingman’s arrest. He said that after meeting Kabila, Zingman flew from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi, where he was questioned by police about his business in the DRC. The source said he could not explain what he was doing in the DRC.[3]

Released

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s controversial business associate and Zimbabwe's honorary consul to Belarus Alexander Zingman was released in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 31 March 2021, official sources in Kinshasa and Minsk told The NewsHawks.




References

  1. [1], New Zimbabwe, Published: 3 June, 2020, Accessed: 23 March, 2021
  2. [2], The Anchor, Published: 1 July, 2020, Accessed: 31 March, 2021
  3. [3], Daily Maverick, Published: 23 March, 2021, Accessed: 23 March, 2021