Mnangagwa rants at Zambia in Putin meeting he thought was private

BULAWAYO – President Emmerson Mnangagwa used a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Thursday to accuse Zimbabwe’s northern neighbour Zambia of hostile liaisons with the United States.

Mnangagwa, in Russia for the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, was not aware his discussions with Putin would be released to the media, his spokesman George Charamba said.

“The Americans,” Mnangagwa told Putin, “are consolidating their power in that country (Zambia), both in terms of security and in terms of financial support to make sure that we feel lonely.”

Mnangagwa appealed for military support from Putin, as well as food, as he appeared to mark Zambia as a regional security threat to his country.

He invited Putin and Russia to “participate in our economy, especially in the mining sector and agriculture,” adding: “There is a lot that we can afford for you to participate. And in that process, the West will run away… We cannot go to the West; we have to come here because the West would want to see us down. They support our neighbours, Zambia and Malawi, very heavily.

“But in spite of that, Zimbabwe’s economic growth is the fastest growing economy in the region, in spite of us being isolated by the Americans.”

He asked Putin for support “especially in the area of defence and security as well as food security.”

Zimbabwe is assuming the chairmanship of SADC in August, to be marked by a summit in Harare, and Mnangagwa’s comments will trigger a diplomatic incident with Zambia, whose reformist President Hichilema Hakainde swept to power in 2021.

Charamba said the assumption from the Zimbabwe delegation was that his conversation with Putin was private. The Kremlin, in fact, released a video and transcript of the meeting lasting just under a quarter of an hour.

Pictures released by the Kremlin also showed photographers present in the room, although it was unclear if they stayed through the meeting.

Meeting … A photograph released by the Kremlin shows journalists in the room as President Vladimir Putin met Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa on June 6, 2024 (TASS)

“As you can see from the set-up, this was a closed meeting in which the President of Zimbabwe was a guest. The recording was in-house to the host. Don’t ask me how it found its way into the public domain; I cannot assist you,” Charamba said.

“Indeed one-on-one meetings are moments of truths and impressions unadorned, and said in confidence. All heads do that in such meetings, always with the attendant risks of such lapses.”

Zimbabwe’s former foreign affairs minister Walter Mzembi said the presence of over half a dozen cameras in the room should have alerted Mnangagwa and the Zimbabwe delegation that the event was “reception protocol, welcoming of a guest generally reserved for hospitalities and niceties and generic bilateral and global overviews.”

“Nothing much is said at such courtesy calls, so if your guest shoots off the hip and delves into substantive issues, spoken or unspoken in the full glare of media which covers such events anyway, damage control is for the host to note and keep quiet and cut it very short,” he wrote on X.

“It betrays bureaucratic lack of preparation of a President for such engagements or the president himself overwhelming his staffers not availing himself or knowing it all.”

The entire affair was “extremely unfortunate,” Mzembi said, “by an incoming chairperson of SADC against a member state.”

Cornelius Mweetwa, the spokesman in the Zambian presidency, said: “Zimbabwe is our sister country, if there are comments that were made, we always have a way of handling any issue of concern between our two countries amicably and diplomatically.

“There is no urgency that should get us into responding to every statement that has been made by the Zimbabwe government, that’s not how we work.”

Hichilema, a long-time opposition leader, was aligned with Zimbabwe’s main opposition before assuming power. In public appearances, Mnangagwa and Hichilema have looked friendly, including on May 31 when the Zimbabwe leader was in Livingstone for the 2024 Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Kaza TFCA) heads of state and government summit.

Neighbourly duties … President Mnangagwa and President Hichilema attend the 2024 Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area heads of state and government summit in Livingstone on May 31, 2024

The post Mnangagwa rants at Zambia in Putin meeting he thought was private appeared first on Zimbabwe News Now.

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