Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi was welcomed in Zimbabwe on Thursday by people singing songs criticizing the West as he arrived on what’s expected to be the last stop of his three-nation Africa trip.
Raisi was greeted at Harare’s international airport by Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who thanked the Iranian leader for showing “solidarity.”
Both countries are under U.S. sanctions and Raisi’s trip to Africa, which has already included stops in Kenya and Uganda, highlights Iran’s efforts to build new partnerships in a bid to soften the impact of those heavy economic punishments.
Iran and Zimbabwe already have a joint permanent commission on political and trade relations.
They also share historical ties and Mnangagwa thanked Raisi for Iran’s help in a liberation war in the 1970s that eventually led to the southern African nation breaking free of white minority rule.
“When we went to war, Iran was our friend. I am happy you have come to show solidarity,” Mnangagwa said in brief remarks on the tarmac at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport named after the late Zimbabwean leader Mnangagwa helped oust in a coup in 2017.
About 12 memorandums of understanding to strengthen bilateral ties were signed, as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi wrapped up his three-nation African tour.
The 12 MOUs include plans to create a tractor manufacturing plant in Zimbabwe with an Iranian company and a local partner. The two countries also signed co-operation agreements for energy, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications as well as research, science and technology projects.
Dozens of supporters came out to see Raisi arrive, with some waving Zimbabwe’s and Iranian flags, and some holding placards with Raisi’s face on them. They also sang songs criticizing the West as “white masters” intent on interfering in Zimbabwe.
Members of Zimbabwe’s Muslim community also came to the airport to welcome Raisi and he inspected an honor guard by Zimbabwe’s military.
On his visit to Uganda on Wednesday, Raisi sharply criticized Western nations’ support for homosexuality and LGBTQ+ rights, calling it “one of the dirtiest things.” He said Uganda’s recently-passed anti-gay legislation and Western criticism of it was “another area of cooperation for Iran and Uganda.”
Zimbabwe also has anti-gay laws, and homosexuality and same-sex marriages are illegal. However, Mnangagwa has not attacked homosexuality, unlike his predecessor, the late Mugabe, who described gays as “worse than dogs and pigs.”
The last visit by an Iranian leader to Zimbabwe was in 2010 by then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.