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‘Polls will be a huge challenge for your nation’- Lukashenko tells Mnangagwa

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has told his fellow Russian ally and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa to brace for challenges associated with the impending 2023 harmonised general elections.

Zimbabwe and Belarus yesterday signed eight bilateral agreements in the areas of education, agriculture and economic co- operation at a ceremony that was presided over by Mnangagwa and Lukashenko at State House in Harare.

The two leaders who are allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed a number of issues including the upcoming plebiscite.

Lukashenko advised his counterpart that elections would present a “huge challenge”.

“This year you are going to have elections and this will be a huge challenge for your nation and I hope you will be able to pass through this. Please don’t trust liars, there are no miracles, good results and success and happiness can only be realised through daily hard work,” he said.

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“So I am hopeful that this year you will make the right choice, and by making the right choice you will be able to show the entire world that you deserve your independence and to preserve it, be very careful.

“Remember only through hard work will you be able to achieve what you want to achieve, and remember there is a country in the heart of Europe, Belarus, that is always on the ready to give you a helping hand, if need be.”

Speaking at the same platform, Mnangagwa said he was confident that his Zanu-PF party would win elections.

“Zimbabwe has never omitted to hold general elections when they are due, every five years we have held elections since 1980 when we got independence and the ruling party Zanu PF has been winning all these elections and we shall continue winning them.

“Zimbabwe is a friend to all and an enemy to none. Those who want to be our enemies, it’s their own fault. We want to be friends to all and enemies to none, those who choose to be anything else it’s their fault but this is our policy.

“So we will embrace Belarus and any other countries that are willing to relate to us but not in the perception of horse and rider, no, either we are all horses or all riders.

“This is how we look at relations and I am very happy that from the first day I met my brother President, we have similar chemistry in terms of how to develop our respective countries on the basis of our domestic resources as well as co-operation with countries which have no intention of dominating us,” Mnangagwa said.

The relationship between Lukashenko and Mnangagwa has been the source of great scandal.

Local Government Minister July Moyo, appointed by Mnangagwa, is accused of procuring fire tenders from Belarus under corrupt circumstances and without the consent of local councils around the country.

Moyo diverted more than US$55 million of devolution funds to buying fire trucks from Belarus for 89 councils allegedly at an inflated cost in more “rampant corruption”.

“The funds to procure the equipment will be deducted from the 2022 Devolution allocations and will be done over a period of twelve months starting March 2022. the cost of each fire tender is USD464,296,” Moyo told councils.

“It is therefore advisable for local authorities to reprioritise the Devolution funds to accommodate the cost of the fire tenders.”

Mnangagwa’s Belarusian crony Alexander Zingman, who runs Aftrade DMCC was awarded the multimillion dollar deal without going to tender.

In 2021, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a consortium of investigative journalists, unveiled links between Lukashenko’s family and a gold mining venture in Zimbabwe.