Speaker of the National Assembly of the Parliament of the Republic of Zimbabwe Jacob Mudenda, in an interview with Novosti, spoke about the assessment of referendums in the DPR , LPR , Zaporozhye and Kherson regions , the development of cooperation between Moscow and Harare , including in the mining sector, answered a question about the reasons for the pause in the development of the Darwendale platinum deposit and assessed the prospects for launching direct flights between Zimbabwe and the Russian Federation.
– Mr. Speaker, let me start the interview with the main news of the last days – the entry of the DPR, LPR, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions into Russia following the results of referendums. During their conduct, you just visited the Russian Federation, how do you assess the results of the voting, and how was it organized?
– Judging by the footage that I saw on TV, I think that the process was transparent. I didn’t see any signs of pressure that somehow people were forced to vote, they did it freely, the ballot boxes were transparent. At the same time, what happened after the people voted, how the votes were counted, was not visible, and I cannot assess this side of the process. At least, I didn’t see it on TV, for this it was necessary, of course, to be on the spot. In this sense, there is some gap in the process itself. But the results show that the people voted to be part of the Russian Federation.
– Can the results of the referenda be recognized by Zimbabwe?
– The recognition of the results of various international processes is initiated, according to the procedure, by our Cabinet of Ministers, on behalf of our President. It is the only body that can decide whether or not to recognize the results. Until our cabinet announces its decision, other branches of government cannot take any steps or make statements.
– Many people in the West talk about the risks of isolating Moscow after new territories join Russia. Does Zimbabwe intend to maintain cooperation with Russia after these events?
– Zimbabwe was on the side of Russia even before the referendums in terms of understanding the root causes of the current situation. Zimbabwe and Russia are victims of the sanctions, and this makes us comrades in the sanctions battle. To the extent that we are victims of sanctions, we share with Russia the same consequences of sanctions. So it is not surprising that Zimbabwe is on the side of Russia.
– Earlier, President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa said that he intends to strengthen cooperation with Russia. At what levels and in what areas does Harare plan to increase cooperation with Moscow?
– From the moment he took office, the president has said that relations between Russia and Zimbabwe should be strengthened. And he confirmed this when he attended the Russia-Africa summit in 2019. There are several factors that unite us besides the fact that we are victims of sanctions: this is cooperation in the economic and political spheres, interaction between people – humanitarian exchanges and contacts. And there is hope that bilateral relations will develop, for which there is a political mood on our part at the highest level.
– On September 27, the State Duma of Russia and the National Assembly of Zimbabwe signed an agreement on cooperation, in what directions will it develop? In your speech in the State Duma, you noted that Zimbabwe is waiting for the visit of the parliamentary delegation of the Russian Federation. Is such a visit possible in the near future?
“The agreement is intended to strengthen the bilateral relationship between the two assemblies in terms of sharing best practices in our parliamentary processes.
September 19, 13:40Rostec handed over Ansat helicopter to Zimbabwe
We hope that a delegation led by the Speaker of the State Duma will respond to my visit, and we will be happy to welcome him and the Russian delegation to Zimbabwe. It would be better if they came in the first quarter of next year, because in the second quarter we will be preparing for the elections, and this will be a busy period of our election cycle. The first quarter of next year would be better: it will be quieter.
– At the moment, air communication between Moscow and Harare is difficult, to put it mildly, there are no direct flights, although tourist interest is growing. Is there any hope that the situation will improve soon and direct flights will be established?
– We are working on it. We would welcome if a Russian airline operated flights to Zimbabwe, and when we have the appropriate aviation equipment, we would also like to plan return flights. But all this requires careful study at the bilateral level, by the ministries of tourism and, of course, by the ministers of transport, who are responsible for the functioning of the aviation industry. We are determined to ensure that work in this direction is carried out, that it be accelerated, so that airlines begin substantive interaction.
– Speaking of Russian-Zimbabwean cooperation, does Harare plan to increase imports of goods from Russia?
– Yes, definitely, but I think that the trade turnover should grow on both sides. Trade is a two-way process. We import wheat from Russia and, to a greater extent, fertilizers. And we supply tobacco and other products to Russia. Volumes can increase depending on demand – on both sides.
September 24, 22:36Russia expects removal of obstacles to grain exports, Lavrov said
– Is it possible to supply fertilizers to Zimbabwe on a barter basis? If yes, what can be discussed?
– This is subject to discussion. If such a proposal comes from the Russian side, then this will be the subject of negotiations between the relevant departments of Russia and Zimbabwe. In particular, it will be necessary to determine which product can be the subject of such a potential barter transaction in exchange for products supplied from Russia.
– How do you assess the current investments from the Russian side?
– The Russian side now has certain positions in the platinum, mining and diamond sectors. In addition, there is an opportunity for some Russian companies to invest in mineral exploration, because at present our mineral sector is not well understood. We have about 40 types of minerals, but we would like to know the exact reserves – at the moment there is no exact estimate of how much, for example, gold, diamonds we have. This can only be assessed through intensive and extensive exploration, which is why I want to believe that Russian companies will be able to work together with our government. So that we know in detail what we have, then we can already communicate with investors in detail, present our reserves and agree on production plans.
– As for diamond mining and possible European sanctions, it seems to me that this is not only about the Russian Federation, this is a trick, one of the ways to impose sanctions not only against Russia, but also indirectly against Zimbabwe. This is a measure to undermine our economy through a potential embargo that affects Zimbabwe. Which is already under sanctions.
– How can you comment on reports that work with Russia on the Darwendale field, which was supposed to start this year, was stopped due to the US sanctions law?
“When you’re fighting an enemy, sometimes you step back to come up with a new strategy. In this case, how to attack a sanctioned enemy. We can say that it is about updating and developing a new strategy to overcome the obstacles that the country has faced.
– Ten Zimbabwean universities have joined the Russian-African Network University consortium. How is cooperation in the field of education between Harare and Moscow now?
– It is extremely important that there is such a consortium that allows sharing relevant knowledge between universities in Russia and Zimbabwe. Especially in the field of development of science and technology in the post-industrial period. Universities in Zimbabwe are already actively working to establish innovation and industrial hubs that will facilitate the transfer of scientific ideas to industry and commerce for their development.
– How many students from Zimbabwe come to study in Russia?
– Currently, 488 students are studying on Russian scholarships in various fields. At my meeting with Chairman of the Federal Assembly of Russia Valentina Matvienkoindicated that Russia is preparing to increase the number of scholarships. We welcome this because we have very bright students, but they come from poor families, they cannot pay for university education. Such students are identified by our government – this is the first selection process that is considered for scholarships from Russia, and in parallel we have a presidential scholarship fund, which also helps students receive financial support for university education in Russia and other countries abroad. We believe that their number should increase, as promised by the Chairman of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. We need relevant knowledge and skills that we could use to implement the presidential task of accelerating the development of our country. This would help create an upper-middle income economy by 2030. This is our presidential vision, and various branches of government are working to implement this program.
“We would like to believe that the voice of our president was heard loud and clear. He was supported by 11 heads of state who addressed the UN General Assembly. The countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) fully support Zimbabwe that the sanctions should be lifted. Let me remind you that SADC even declared October 25 a day of solidarity against sanctions. All of these countries in the community are calling for the lifting of sanctions in solidarity with Zimbabwe. The sanctions are illegal, firstly, because they have not been approved by the Security Council. Secondly, they are contrary to international law, because they are a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Zimbabwe. And, thirdly, they simply contradict the UN Charter.
These sanctions have a debilitating effect because our financial institutions cannot access sources of financing for the country’s economic development. And most of all, people from rural areas, the poor, suffer from this. Including because the government does not have enough funds to import medicines to provide for the poorest segments of the population. And access to medicine, to health care is one of the fundamental human rights, it concerns ensuring the right to life. If people don’t have enough medicine, their lives are at risk. In this regard, we say that the sanctions are not just illegal, but completely inhuman, violating the rights to life of the people of Zimbabwe.
– During your visit to Moscow, you called Russia and Zimbabwe brothers in arms. How can you explain it?
“When you have two victims suffering from the same disease, they want to share the suffering and find solutions to common problems. Sanctions are our common enemy, and obviously this makes bilateral relations between Russia and Zimbabwe ever closer. Because we must fight side by side to ensure that these sanctions do not ultimately destroy our national economies.