AT the turn of the millennium, our country adopted the Look East policy.
The Government’s pro-people, pro-Zimbabwe, pro-Africa positions such as economic indigenisation and land reform and redistribution programmes had angered the West. They imposed sanctions; at some point contemplated a military option but happily, Sadc stood its ground against it.
The embargo was hurting the economy seriously as it was built on Western technologies and relationships since colonialism. In addition to sanctions, the West created an opposition party in a bid to take advantage of the economic hardships to win political power. They, too, created a troop of non-governmental organisations so they could support the opposition to achieve the West’s political goals.
Faced with the onslaught, the Government looked East. One of the countries it forged cordial relations with was Belarus; of course, together with traditional allies China, Russia and others.
Harare and Minsk’s political ties have been strengthening over the years. Former Vice-President John Nkomo visited that country in April 2011. As Vice-President in 2015, President Mnangagwa also visited Minsk. He returned there as President of the republic in January 2019. A number of ministers have been there as well. Also, there have been many missions from Belarus to our country, with the most senior envoy being the Deputy Prime Minister, Piotr Parkhomchik who was in Harare in October.
Economically, a decent amount of work is being done but honestly, there is still a lot more work to be done. Yes, a number of agreements have been signed, especially in mine and farm mechanisation, and executed but, as we have indicated, both nations have much more to do for their economic relationship to match the excellent political ties.
President Alexander Lukashenko’s visit to the country from Monday to Wednesday next week is part of a strategy to not only deepen the already good political ties, but also sustain the bi-lateral effort to boost economic co-operation.
“The visit is historic, as it is the first such undertaking to a sub-Saharan African nation, by President Lukashenko,” said Government in a release yesterday.
“The State visit is meant to strengthen the existing excellent relations between Zimbabwe and the Republic of Belarus. The two countries have strong co-operation in political, economic, mining, agriculture and disaster risk management.
Several agreements are under consideration and are expected to be signed during the visit.”
As we report elsewhere today, a highlight of President Lukashenko’s State visit will be the launch of the second phase of the Zimbabwe-Belarus Agricultural Mechanisation Programme.
Patriots must be glad that he will be here. His country has stood by ours at very difficult moments, just as China, Russia, Sadc, African Union and others in the South have done since 2000. The first phase of the mechanisation helped a lot in the national effort to assist our new farmers mechanise their operations at a time when sanctions prevented them from buying machines from Europe and the US. The tractors are ideal for local field conditions and are affordable. Combine harvesters have been delivered from Belarus as well.
Apart from agriculture machinery, a number of mines have bought some machines from the eastern European nation as well.
Therefore, we are gratified that President Mnangagwa and his Belarus counterpart will launch phase two of the farm mechanisation initiative. That is the sort of economic co-operation we want.
A few years ago, we reported that some Belarusian investors were to build a solar project in our country. We aren’t sure if there has been progress in that proposed investment. But if there had been movement, we would have known.
We hope President Lukashenko’s visit will get that project back on line. If built it will assist in boosting national energy security amid electricity shortage.
Zimbabwe is open for business. It wants more investment, from local sources as well as from abroad. So more trade and investment from Belarus will be welcome in various sectors — mining, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and so on.