Politics

Zanu-PF presents North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un with floral basket

THE Central Committee of the ruling Zanu-PF party has given North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un with a present – a floral basket – on the occasion of the 22nd anniversary of his father and late dictator Kim Jong Il’s election as general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Details of the present were published by the State-owned North Korean media in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

“Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un was presented with a floral basket on Oct. 9 by the Central Committee of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front on the occasion of the 22nd anniversary of Chairman Kim Jong Il’s election as general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the 74th founding anniversary of the WPK.”

Zanu-PF’s spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo was not available for comment when reached out by Zimbabwe Voice.

Zanu-PF and North Korea’s relationship dates back to the Cold War, during which Pyongyang backed several liberation movements in Africa, including the Zanla.

During the 1970s, North Korea trained an armed faction of Zimbabwe’s now-ruling ZANU-PF party as it fought to oust white minority rule in the country, which was then the British colony of Rhodesia.

When former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was elected into power in 1980 following the country’s independence, military training from North Korea became more closely linked to its leadership. Mugabe agreed with then-North Korean leader Kim Il Sung that Pyongyang would train a wing of Zimbabwe’s army, known as the Fifth Brigade, which would be under the direct control of Mugabe himself as he sought to consolidate his power in the country.

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For approximately a decade beginning in the late 1990s, a particularly murky period in Zimbabwe’s history during which the country suffered from hyperinflation, riots and strikes, its relationship with North Korea was bolstered.

William Attwell, practice leader for Sub-Saharan Africa at emerging markets consultancy Frontier Strategy Group, described the pair to CNBC as “ideological bedfellows,” finding solidarity in international isolation. “Mugabe drew inspiration from Pyongyang’s ideology of self-reliance in his tirades against the West,” Attwell said.

Contraband commodities moving between Zimbabwe and North Korea form a key part of their bilateral business connections.

“Since Western sanctions left few options to procure armaments from abroad, North Korea became a crucial source of supplies for Zimbabwe’s military, which is among the region’s best trained and equipped,” Attwell said.

Meanwhile, North Korean firm Mansudae Overseas Projects, a construction company specializing in memorials and monuments, has completed projects in Zimbabwe as well as elsewhere in Africa. Mansudae’s work includes National Heroes Acre, a burial ground just outside the Zimbabwean capital Harare.

There have been incidences of smugglers attempting to import Zimbabwean ivory and rhino horn into North Korea. Also, Zimbabwe is reported to have supplied uranium to North Korea, which is used as part of the regime’s nuclear program.

“Zimbabwe is being watched closely by the UN over potentially contravening the sanctions regime on North Korea,” Neville said.

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Zimbabwe’s “cosying up to North Korea has historically been a demonstration of defiance against the West rather than the practical manifestation of substantive diplomatic and business ties between the two countries,” said Charles Laurie, a specialist in southern Africa and head of politics at consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.

While Mnangagwa has been campaigning for foreign investment in Zimbabwe, North Korea’s finances could falter should its relationship with Zimbabwe wane. “Its overall trade with Africa is approximately $100 million per year — it seems very little, but this is a not insignificant sum for the cash-strapped government. It is foreign trade and military links that are keeping North Korea’s head above water,” Neville said.

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