AFRICANGLOBE – The Zimbabwean economy got a major boost yesterday following the signing of several trade and investment deals between the Government and the visiting high-powered Russian delegation in Harare, ahead of the commissioning of a $1 billion Integrated Platinum Group Metals Project in Darwendale today.
Highly-respected international diplomat, Russian foreign minister Mr Sergey Lavrov is expected in Harare this morning to commission the project which has been dubbed the biggest in Zimbabwe, and among the biggest mining ventures in the world.
The deals come hard on the heels of nine mega infrastructure deals signed between Zimbabwe and China during President Mugabe’s State visit to Beijing last month.
The deals, which feed into the infrastructure and utilities cluster of Zim-Asset, are expected to boost economic turnaround and spawn over 20 000 jobs.
Yesterday’s agreements were made during the First Session of the Zimbabwe-Russia Inter-Governmental Joint Commission on Economic, Trade, Scientific and Technical Co-operation co-chaired by
Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Mr Denis Manturov.
The Joint Commission was attended by several Cabinet ministers and Russian businesspersons with interests in mining, energy, agriculture, education and infrastructure development.
The Russian delegation, which arrived yesterday morning, is in Zimbabwe on a three-day official visit and will be joined by Mr Lavrov for the commissioning of the $1 billion Integrated Platinum Group Metals Project.
The project, expected to see the setting up of concentrators and a smelter, is a joint venture between the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) and state-owned high tech corporation, Rostec and VB Bank.
This project is expected to significantly boost value-addition and beneficiation which are key pillars of Zim-Asset.
Minister Manturov said Russia was ready to assist Zimbabwe in different sectors, including offering expertise.
“I am happy that we have finalised (the deals). This will promote the launching of bilateral projects relating to mining development, energy, agriculture, communication and health,” he said.
“We should now actualise co-operation and open new prospects. It is really impressive that in such a short time we managed to come to the signing of various agreements during this inaugural session of the Inter-governmental commission. I believe there are vast opportunities and cooperation in various spheres, especially in mining.”
ZMDC acting general manager, Mr Wilson Chinzou, signed an MoU with OMZ senior vice president Mr Igor Molibog that will see the Russian firm providing mining equipment.
Minister Manturov said the Darwendale project would be one of the largest in the world, opening the route for more companies to enter the Zimbabwean market, as a “good legal base” had been created through the signing of the agreements.
“We believe that such a project will enable the supply of Russian equipment to Zimbabwe which will be needed to support this project. As the volumes of trade and exchange grow, we believe Zimbabwe will breed access for Russian supplies to other African markets.
“We know that there are a number of Russian investors in a number of spheres including agriculture and industry who are keen to enter the Zimbabwean market and we are studying various opportunities in the energy sector and a company is ready to enter Zimbabwe.”
Minister Mumbengegwi said it was high time relations between Harare and Moscow took an economic dimension.
He said the agreements signed with the Russians should turn around the Zimbabwean economy which has been battered by the West’s illegal economic sanctions regime.
“The sanctions targeted the vital sectors of the economy up to the extent of barring Zimbabwean natural resources on the international market,” he said.
“Our equipment is obsolete and needs urgent attention and it is our hope that what we are agreeing will see us fully realising our economic blueprint (Zim-Asset).”
Minister Mumbengegwi thanked Russia for standing by Zimbabwe during its “hard times.”
“The solidarity and support speeded up the process of the liberation struggle and in 2008, when Western countries imposed illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe, it was amazing that a group of countries declared a peaceful country to get sanctions. Had it not been for
Russia exercising her veto power on that resolution, Zimbabwe would have been totally destroyed.”
Earlier on officials from Rosoboronexport—the sole state intermediary agency for Russia’s trade of defense-related products— met Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi and explored different areas of cooperation.
Minister Sekeramayi, who was accompanied by Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga and Air Force of Zimbabwe Commander Air Marshal Perrance Shiri, said Zimbabwe was looking “elsewhere” for the supply of weapons and spare parts following the imposition of illegal sanctions.
“They have been briefing us on what they have and we were also advising them on what we may need,” he said.
“As you know, our Defence Forces have been equipped largely with weaponry from Britain and other Western countries and we are under sanctions from these countries and we cannot even buy spare parts from them and naturally we have to look elsewhere.”
By: Felex Share and Elita Chikwati