Russia Developing Stronger Beneficial Cooperation with Zimbabwe -Valentina Matviyenko

Russia and Zimbabwe continue to strengthen traditional ties, after it originated back in the period of the Zimbabwean people’s struggle for independence. All these years, the bilateral relations have continued to grow stronger and its further development cannot be under-estimated. Diplomatic relations between Zimbabwe and Russia marked its 40th year. 

These are the historical facts the Chairwoman of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko and President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa acknowledged during their early June meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe. Matviyenko headed a delegation of Russian senators to Mozambique and continued to Zimbabwe where Russia-Ukraine crisis dominated the dicussions as well as new substantive topics on regional and international issues. Outstanding bilateral questions and how to implement them were also raised.

Besides all the historical diplomatic niceties, Matviyenko informed Emmerson Mnangagwa that inter-parliamentary ties are developing dynamically, Russia and Zimbabwe had agreed on a memorandum of cooperation in the field of science, technology and innovation. “I consider the practice of signing bilateral interdepartmental documents very useful, and it is necessary to open some of the aspects, as much as possible, in today’s difficult conditions, which is in the mutual state interests,” said the Chairwoman of the Federation Council.

On Russia-Ukraine crisis that began February 24, she noted the support that Zimbabwean colleagues provide to Russian foreign policy initiatives. “It is also important that in Harare takes a balanced position in relation to the situation in Ukraine,” she said.

During the conversation, Matviyenko and Mnangagwa also discussed issues of expanding trade and economic ties between Russia and Zimbabwe. “So far, the volume of mutual bilateral trade does not correspond to its potential. Therefore, the main tasks at this current stage is the creation of conditions for increasing the volume of trade and its diversification. Then, we proceed from the fact that the implementation of all these plans will be facilitated by joint fruitful work within the framework of the Intergovernmental Russian-Zimbabwean Commission on Economic, Trade, Scientific and Technical Cooperation,” explained Matviyenko.

Matviyenko and Mnangagwa, however, noted the Russia-Ukraine crisis world-wide, issues related to food security. Offering an assurance, she said: “Russia is ready to do everything possible to prevent a food crisis. We are ready to fulfill our contractual obligations in full. If Zimbabwe turns to Russia, we will work out a supply mechanism together and provide Zimbabwe with the necessary amount of food.”

With the Chairman of the National Assembly of the Republic of Zimbabwe Jacob Mudenda, the Chairwoman of the Federation Council stressed frequent interaction that gives a serious impetus not only to inter-parliamentary relations, but to the entire range of Russia-Zimbabwean relations. According to her, both countries are actively interacting in the international arena based on compliance with international law and respect for the sovereignty of states.

Both reiterated the need to bring trade, economic and investment ties to a level that would correspond to political trusting relations. “We attach great importance to inter-parliamentary cooperation, which is designed to promote the implementation of agreements at the highest level, and we look forward to its further promotion,” she reiterated. 

As Jacob Mudenda noted, mutual visits are very useful in terms of parliamentary diplomacy. According to him, the Zimbabwean parliament is working on legislative aspects in the field of expanding investment opportunities, speeding up the issuance of visas for foreign investors and reforming the tax regime for them. 

Mudenda called on Russian companies and Russian entrepreneurs to expand cooperation with colleagues from Zimbabwe, in particular, in the field of agriculture, mining, and exploration of natural resources. He stated that the Zimbabwean colleagues would firmly support Russia on international parliamentary platforms.

During the meeting, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev informed the Zimbabwean parliamentarians about the work of the Russian delegation at the meeting of the Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Indonesia. 

Co-Chairman of the Intergovernmental Russian-Zimbabwean Commission on Economic, Trade, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation Alexander Kozlov informed about the results of the fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission held the day before in Harare.

Zarubezhgeologiya, the operation of the international projects of Russian state company Rosgeo, might be brought in to work on the geological mapping of Zimbabwe, Russia’s Natural Resources Ministry said after a session of Russia-Zimbabwe intergovernmental commission.

“In the course of meetings on the sidelines of the session, (Natural Resources Minister) Alexander Kozlov proposed to Zimbabwe’s Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando to engage Russian company Zarubezhgeologiya in work in the area of geological mapping. Zimbabwean colleague supported the idea and noted that the experience of Russian experts could be used in the creation of a joint geological digital database that has not been updated since the 1970s.

There were a raft of documents signed. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has signed decrees regarding memorandums on cooperation with Zimbabwe over diamonds and platinum group metals, according to documents published by official internet portal of legislative information.

Besides that, Zimbabwe has asked Russia for larger supplies of agricultural products and for deliveries of petroleum products, Alexander Kozlov said after a fourth meeting of the Russian-Zimbabwean Intergovernmental Commission in Harare.

“The government of Zimbabwe has proposed to increase the volumes of wheat and vegetable oil supplies and start deliveries of petroleum products,” Kozlov said. Therefore, it was suggested that the Zimbabwean agriculture and energy ministries draft a specific request that would indicate the amount of additional deliveries and the logistical chains, he said.

The share of agrarian products in Russia’s exports has been growing in recent years, mainly due to wheat and mineral fertilizers, Kozlov said. According to the Union of Grain Exporters, Russia supplied 11,900 tonnes of wheat to Zimbabwe in 2021 up from 810 tonnes in 2019.

In conversation with the Russian-Zimbabwean inter-parliamentary groups, Chairwoman of the Senate of the Republic of Zimbabwe Mabel Chinomona and Speaker Matviyenko exchanged views on a wide range of Russia-Zimbabwean inter-parliamentary cooperation, and further noting that at the current stage, there is a stable and trusting political dialogue established between the two parties.

Russia and Zimbabwe are successfully interacting in the international arena on the basis of closeness or identity of positions on topical international and regional problems. “For its part, Russia has always supported Zimbabwe in the struggle to strengthen national sovereignty, defending its right to an independent course of development,” both agreed with this view.

They highly appreciated the existing opportunities for intensifying Russia-Zimbabwean inter-parliamentary relations. “One of the tools could be the conclusion of a Cooperation Agreement between the Federation Council and the Senate of the Republic of Zimbabwe. On the basis of this document, Matviyenko and Mabel Chinomona suggested could jointly implement a kind of what they termed as “parliamentary patronage” in the development of contacts between the business circles – provide the necessary assistance in their activities.

There was then a proposal to sign an inter-parliamentary agreement outlining the priorities of the Russia-Zimbabwean agenda as the continuation of consistent work to develop the legal framework for bilateral relations, for instance, the possibility of broad cooperation in the field of healthcare, education and the humanitarian field.

The Chairwoman of the Federation Council supported the idea of ​​the Zimbabwean side to install a monument dedicated to the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 on the territory of the African Liberation Museum being created in Harare.

Deputy Minister of Science and Education of the Russian Federation Natalya Bocharova briefed the Zimbabwean parliamentarians on Russian initiatives in the field of humanitarian cooperation.

Valentina Matvienko and Mabel Chinomona took part in the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology Development of the Republic of Zimbabwe on cooperation in the field of scientific, scientific, technical and innovative activities. Matvienko finally stressed that Russia is interested in developing mutually beneficial cooperation with the countries of the African continent, added that “This is one of the foreign policy priorities of the Russian Federation.”

According to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russia-Zimbabwean interaction is based on strong ties of friendship and cooperation, which developed during the struggle of the people for independence, and which continue to develop today. Zimbabwe is one of the 16-member Southern African Development Community.  

Kester Kenn Klomegah
Kester Kenn Klomegah
MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.