Who is Victor Sheiman, the Belarussian who represents his country in some of the recent years’ biggest deals in Africa?
Titled “Chief of Presidential Affairs” and “General Colonel”, Victor Sheiman (not to be confused with American pioneer of robotics, Victor Scheinman) is a busy man. Articles show his vast involvement in deals and contracts involving Belarus and many countries in Africa, mainly Zimbabwe.
In February 2020, he represented Belarus in a deal with Zimbabwe to trade land compared to the city of Mutarem the 4th largest in Zimbabwe, for 300 ZUPCO buses. The agricultural project was to enable the country to grow maize, wheat and soya beans for internal consumption. The deal was brokered in September 2019 after a Sheiman-led delegation visited Zimbabwe and met with President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Victor Sheiman, Alexander Zingman and Sergi Sheiman in Zimbabwe
Back in September 2019, the delegation came to Zimbabwe to discuss investments in agriculture, mining, power, construction and transport with Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Vangelis Haritatos, Special Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Stewart Comberbach, and other Government officials. It seems that the 3-day visit mostly focused on agriculture, power plants and transportation and resulted in 8 agreements valued at US$350m.
Sheiman has also brokered mining deals with Zimbabwe; in November 2018, Zimbabwe and Belarus signed a contract to extract alluvial gold and de-silt rivers to recover metals. However, anonymous sources questioned that Belarus had the knowhow to operate said projects; “That deal has a lot of loopholes. Did our government do the correct research? I do not think so because there are no mining companies in Belarus that are capable of alluvial gold mining and de-silting of rivers”.
Earlier meetings in the African country were reported in March and September of 2018. At the time, President Mnangagwa announced Zimbabwe was open for business, making Sheiman’s $1b deal in Harare among the first in the country.
Emerson Mnangagwa, Viktor Sheiman, Sibusiso Busi Moyo and Alexander Zingman in Zimbabwe
In Belarus, Sheiman is also Head of the Belarus President Property Management Directorate and officially in charge of overseeing the cooperation with African countries. He was awarded 86 medals and represents Belarusian business in Latin America, including crude oil and petroleum deals with Venezuela.
According to his Wikipedia article, the businessman and politician was born in Belarus in 1958. In the Soviet period, he served in the Airborne Troops and reached the rank of Major General and later held numerous public positions, including in the Ministry of Interior.
Alongside his advisory positions for his country in Africa, Sheiman was also involved in cases that led to his being put under heavy EU and US sanctions; in 2012, the EU council adopted restrictive measures against Sheiman and 242 other businessmen and 32 companies for the “unresolved disappearances of Yuri Zakharenko, Viktor Gonchar, Anatoly Krasovski and Dmitri Zavadski in Belarus in 1999-2000”. The US adopted similar measures in 2006, prohibiting Sheiman and 9 others from owning properties in the US, having US bank accounts or doing business with US companies or US citizens.
Among those connected to Sheiman, news sources mention Alexander Mikhailovich Metla, the head of the Pamyat' Afgana charity for Afghan veterans, President Aleksandr Lukashenko, Yuri Sivakov, ex-interior minister, and Zimbabwe Honorary Consul Alexander Zingman. Zingman was named Sheiman’s “advisor” by several outlets and has also been named an advisor to the $1b deal in Zimbabwe of March 2018. Zingman also attended a meeting between Zambia and Belarus to discuss and arms deal, attended by Sheiman’s assistant in President Edgar Lungu’s office in Lusaka.
Marshal Perrance Shiri, Minister of lands and agriculture, signed the two agreements on behalf of Zimbabwe. During the meeting, US citizen and Belarus honorary consul in Zimbabwe, Alexander Zingman, also met with Mnangagwa. Both Shiri and Mnangagwa are currently under US sanctions.
Victor Sheiman, Sergi Sheiman, Alexander Zingman and Emmerson Mnangagwa in Zimbabwe
It is worth mentioning that Zimbabwe has been under EU and US Treasury and Congress sanctions between 2001-2018 for undemocratic practices, human rights abuses, and economic mismanagement. The sanctions, imposed in the Mugabe era, were extended until February 2020 for gross human rights violations; Travel restrictions and a freeze on assets have been imposed, and American companies and citizens are not allowed to deal with Zimbabwean entities.
While Sheiman is reported to have lost his place among Lukashenko’s close circle, he seems to still be brokering huge deals for his country in Africa and, as arises from local media, is viewed as a heralder of prosperity in Zimbabwe.