The United Nations database shows that the UAE has been a prime destination for gold from many African states in the last decade. Between 2006 and 2016, the share of African gold in UAE’s reported gold imports increased from 18 percent to nearly 50 percent. The UAE reported gold imports from 46 African countries for 2016 at a total rate of US$7.4 billion worth of gold, while trading in gold accounts for nearly one-fifth of UAE’s GDP. The UAE’s main commodity marketplace is the Dubai Multi-Commodities Centre (DMCC) and its head of commodities Sanjeev Dutta said in January this year that they are building strategic relationships with most gold-producing countries on the African continent.
Even though the high level of instability and shady business, some borderline investors have been drawn to the opportunities embodied in Zimbabwe as a vast free trade area. The most prominent of them is Alexander Zingman who holds both Belarusian and American citizenship.
Alexander Zingman has close ties with the Zimbabwean and Belarusian top political elites. Smart Jet Aviation Flight records show that Zingman hosted Emmerson and Leya Mnangagwa on his M-ABEC private jet in July 2018.
Alexander Zingman has been invited to President Mnangagwa’s house multiple times. According to open source media, Emmerson Mnangagwa Junior was a guest at Alexander Zingman’s Chic Restaurant, Falcone, in Minsk Belarus.
Although, Mr. Zingman attempt to remain under the radar, Social Media photographs expose his presence in many acute cooperation milestones between Zimbabwe and Belarus between 2017 and 2019.
First, Alexander Zingman attended the March 2018 summit in which Belarus Chief of Presidential Affairs, Victor Sheiman, and President Mnangagwa signed $68 million worth of deals across various economic sectors. Zingman was spotted again on the September 2018 visit of Sheiman to Mnangagwa’s residency to discuss previously signed deals.
Alexander Zingman and Sheiman met with Chitando, Energy and Power Development Minister Jorum Gumbo, and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor John Mangudya. A year later, a video uploaded by ZBC News revealed that Zingman took part in the creation of the joint venture to create a Zimbabwean-Belarusian transport company for the delivery of goods from Zimbabwe to Mozambique.
In January last year, President Mnangagwa met with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow, to discuss cooperation in the fields of oil, mining projects, platinum extraction and diamond exploration, financial issues, and projects in agriculture. Two weeks after, Zingman was appointed as Zimbabwe’s Honorary Consul in Belarus.
Photographs from the event expose an impressive network of both countries’ political leaders, among them Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus, Andrei Dapkiunas, the head of the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus (DBRB), Andrei Zhishkevich, Zimbabwe’s Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube and others.
They discussed the DBRB’s plans to continue financing a $120 million worth of Belarusian agriculture, construction and mining equipment in Zimbabwe. The Belarusian oligarch’s appointment occurring just after Mnangagwa’s meeting with Putin to discuss cooperation in platinum extraction and diamond exploration may seem just as a coincidence.
However, there are few more pieces of the puzzle that raise the suspicion that Mnangagwa may have wanted to protect his businesses with Zingman and keep them away from the public eye. Alexander Zingman’s new office is located in the building of the President Hotel, which is managed by the Belize United Democratic Party (UDP).
On the same floor lies the UAE based AFTRADE DMCC (Dubai Multi Commodities Center), which supplies Belarusian equipment to Africa. DMCC zone excuses residents from tax duty as well. His new position is located near diamond exports and friendship with Mnangagwa exposes him to information about diamond exports passing through the country.
In addition, his close relationship with the President of AFREXIMBANK, Benedict Oramah, links him with the company STAR Strategic Assets III LP. Alexander Zingman’s right hand, Oleg Voldchic, also works at AFREXIMBANK. Zingman is also a co-owner of the Polish agricultural company Kontraktus with his Polish stakeholder, Witold Karcewszki, which actively trades with Belarus. Therefore, he clearly has a financial interest in the area. If diamonds play a role in alleviating Zimbabwean economic woes, improved governance of the sector is crucial.
The most important aspect in reforming Zimbabwe’s diamond sector is transparency. This would allow monitoring the supply chain of the diamonds to prevent corruption or human rights abuses. So far, the Zimbabwean government fails to fully account for diamond and other mineral revenues although they are still doing business with Eastern European countries and the Middle East, using middlemen such as Alexander Zingman.