Mnangagwa Seeks Cash in Russia as Zimbabwe Descends Into Chaos
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said he’s seeking loans from Russia on a visit to Moscow as protests erupted across his country Monday, leaving 24 people injured and five possibly dead.
“I can’t say that we want this much or that much,” he said in an interview with the state-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti published Tuesday ahead of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin announcement of the talks made no mention of loans and Moscow has in the past been reluctant to bail out struggling allies, though Russia has recently been building ties in Africa.
In Zimbabwe, the protests spread from the capital, Harare, to the second city of Bulawayo and some smaller towns. They followed the government’s decision to increase taxes on fuel, more than doubling the price of the already scarce commodity and making it the world’s most expensive when compared to prices quoted by GlobalPetrolPrices.com.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said 13 protesters were treated for gunshot wounds on Monday. NewsDay, a Harare-based newspaper, reported the same organization as upping the number of injured to 24 and five killed during the demonstrations.
Authorities ordered Internet service providers to restrict access to social-media sites including WhatsApp, TechZim reported Tuesday.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change said in an emailed statement its headquarters in Harare were broken into Monday night and set ablaze by unknown assailants.
Mnangagwa’s trip to Russia, which began Monday, was planned before the protests erupted. He’s also scheduled to visit Kazakhstan, Belarus and Azerbaijan before flying to Davos, Switzerland, in an effort to raise investment for his economically blighted nation.
In the RIA interview, he invited Russian companies to discuss investing in oil and gas projects in Zimbabwe, as well as in the energy sector. Russia’s state-owned diamond giant Alrosa PJSC Monday announced plans to return to Zimbabwe to develop new mining operations with the support of the government.
From Libya to Madagascar, Russia has been carving out a niche in Africa in part by shoring up strongmen in unstable but potentially rich states. The Kremlin has made the region a focus of its efforts to reassert geopolitical prowess and open new markets for domestic companies hamstrung by Western sanctions. Putin will host more than 50 leaders from the continent for the first Russia-Africa summit this year.
In the RIA interview, Mnangagwa rejected opposition allegations that Russia or China meddled in the elections that brought him to power in 2017.
In Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa’s absence leaves Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, a retired general, in charge of the southern African country.
Security Minister Owen Ncube told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that the MDC, non-governmental organizations and civil-society bodies were to blame for Monday’s violence.
“The prevailing security situation in the country is a culmination of a well-orchestrated series of events by the MDC Alliance working in cahoots with NGOs, civic society, youth organizations, pressure groups and individuals,” he told the Herald, adding that the “MDC Alliance activated its notorious terror groups.”
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, which called for three days of protests on Sunday, urged Zimbabweans to continue the demonstrations today. DM