Russia and Zimbabwe Relations Remain Work-in-Progress, says Brigadier General Nicholas Mike Sango

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in Southeast Africa, and shares borders with South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique. It is very rich in mineral resources and is the largest trading partner of South Africa on the continent of Africa. Russia maintains very friendly relations with Zimbabwe, thanks to ties which evolved during the struggle for independence. Since then, Russia has had a very strong mutual sympathy with and friendly feelings toward the southern African people, government and the country.

General Nicholas Mike Sango, Zimbabwean ambassador to the Russian
Federation, has held his position since July 2015. He previously held
various high-level posts such as military adviser in Zimbabwe’s
Permanent Mission to the United Nations and as international instructor
in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).


Brigadier General Nicholas Sango prepares to leave his post in August,
our media executive Kestér Kenn Klomegâh conducted this exclusive
interview with him to assess and guage the current climate of relations
between Russia and Zimbabwe specifically and Africa generally. The
following are excerpts (summarized text) from the long-ranging


Q: As you are about to leave, what would you say generally and concisely about Russia’s policy towards Africa? 

Sango: Russia’s policy towards Africa has over the last few years
evolved in a positive way. The watershed Russia-Africa Summit of 2019
reset Russia’s Soviet-era relations with Africa. Africa fully
understands that the transition from the Soviet Union to the present-day
Russian Federation was a process and that today Russia is now in a
position to influence events at the global scale. Even that being the
case, her institutions and organs, be they political or economic are
equally in a transitional mode as they adapt to the Federal policy
posture and the emerging realities of the present geo-political
environment. Africa in return has responded overwhelmingly to the call
by its presence in its fullness at the 2019 Sochi Summit.


Do you feel there are still a number of important tasks which you have
not fulfilled or accomplished as Zimbabwean Ambassador to the Russian

Sango: Zimbabwe government’s engagement with the Russian Federation is
historically rooted in new state’s contribution towards Zimbabwe
attaining her freedom and nationhood in 1980. This is the foundation of
the two countries relations and has a bearing  on two countries 
interactions and cooperation. Relations between the two countries have
remained stead-fast with collaborations at political and economic spares
hallmarked by Russia’s involvement as early as 2014 in the
commissioning of the Darwendale Platinum Project followed by ALROSA, the
diamond giant setting its footprints on the territory of Zimbabwe. 


President of the Republic of Zimbabwe visited Moscow in 2019. Since
then, there have been reciprocal visits by ministers and
parliamentarians. In early June 2022, the Chairperson of the Federation
Council visited Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s military have participated in Army
Games over the years and will do in 2022 ARMY GAMES. Further to these
mentioned above, Russia has continued to support human resource
development through its government scholarship programmes as well as
training other arms of government.  Zimbabwe recently hosted the
Russia-Zimbabwe Intergovernmental Commission where new cooperative
milestones were signed.


foreign policy is anchored on engagement and re-engagement. As
Ambassador to Russian Federation, my focus as per direction of the
Zimbabwean President was to promote business-to-business engagement and
attract Russian investment in Zimbabwe. While the Darwendale Platinum
Project and ALROSA’s entry into the Zimbabwe market, we have not seen
other big businesses following the two. 


volume of trade between Zimbabwe and Russia could be better. Perhaps,
as an Embassy, we have not made a strong case for importers to look in
Zimbabwe’s direction. Or, our own trade and investment institutions have
not fully appreciated the potential of the Russian market. The concern
by Russian importers regarding the logistical cost of bringing goods
from landlocked countries in the far southern hemisphere is appreciated.
This, however, would not inhibit the importation of non-perishable


mentioned earlier on, businesses are still in transitional mode and it
is the hope that the emerging world order will in time persuade business
to look at Africa through the lenses to see the vast opportunities and
benefits beckoning. On the other hand, having established the
Russian-Zimbabwe Business Council, it was hoped that businesses of the
two countries could speak to each other, appreciate the strengths and
weaknesses as well as opportunities open. Although the benefits are yet
to be seen, this remains work-in-progress.


Has the experience, including all your interactions, changed your
initial thoughts when you first arrived to this ambassadorial post in

Sango: Interestingly, my views and perceptions about Russia before and
during my stay in the beautiful country has always been grounded in the
history and our nation’s journey to nationhood, independence and
sovereignty. As a product of the revolutionary struggle and from my
government’s direction and policy, Russia was and will always be an ally
regardless of the changing temperatures and geo-political environment.


What would you frankly say about Russia’s policy pitfalls in Africa?
And what would you suggest especially about steps to take in regaining
part of the Soviet-era level of engagement (this time without
ideological considerations) with Africa?

Sango: There are several issues that could strengthen the relationship.
One important direction is economic cooperation. African diplomats have
consistently been persuading Russia’s businesses to take advantage of
the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) as an opportunity for
Russian business to establish footprints in the continent. This view has
not found favor with them and, it is hoped over time it will.


policy on Africa has been clearly pronounced and is consistent with
Africa’s position. Challenges arise from implementation of that
forward-looking policy as summarized:


The government has not pronounced incentives for business to set sights
and venture into Africa. Russian businesses, in general, view Africa as
too risky for their investment. They need a prompt from government.


Soviet Union’s African legacy was assisting colonized countries attain
independence. Russia as a country needs to set footprints into the
continent by exporting its competitive advantages in engineering and
technological advancement to bridge the gap that is retarding Africa’s
industrialization and development.


There are too many initiatives by too many quasi-state institutions
promoting economic cooperation with Africa saying the same things in
different ways but doing nothing tangible. “Too many cooks spoil the


In discussing cooperative mechanisms, it is important to understand
what Africa’s needs and its desired destination is. In fact, the Africa
Agenda 2063 is Africa’s roadmap. As such the economic cooperation agenda
and initiatives must of necessity speak to and focus within the
parameters of the AU Agenda 2063.


Q: And finally about the emerging new world order as propagated by China and Russia? 

Sango: Africa in general refused to condemn Russia for her “special
military operation” in Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly
and that shook the Western Powers. The reason is very simple. Speaking
as a Zimbabwean, our nation has been bullied, subjected to unilateral
coercive measures that have been visited upon us and other poor
countries without recourse to the international systems governing good
order, human rights and due process. There is one more historical fact –
Africa is no longer a colony, of any nation and refuses to be viewed as
secondary states. It is for the above reasons that Africa welcomes
multilateralism and the demise of hegemonism perpetuated by so called
“big brothers” – be it social, cultural, ideological or economic. Africa
rejects this western perception of Africa.


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Publish date : 2022-08-05 18:17:09

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