Region fed up with Zim crisis?
FOR nearly two decades Zimbabwe has been reeling under a serious economic meltdown characterised by political upheavals, with the leadership and most African nations blaming these challenges on the economic embargo imposed on the country by western powers at the turn of the new millennium.
With the country going back and forth, without finding tangible solutions to its problems, which have seen millions of Zimbabweans leaving the country in droves to neighbouring countries, growing voices have been calling on the government to deal with corruption and to implement economic and political reforms.
While the economic upheavals and political problems have been going on for a long time in Zimbabwe, neighbouring countries had kept their mouths shut in a brotherhood scenario, leaving the country to ride on its propaganda that the problems were purely foreign instigated.
However, political analysts said recent sentiments by the continent heavyweight, South Africa, in which it called for Zimbabwe to use an all-inclusive approach in dealing with its problems and to implement economic reforms, could be a sign that the region was fed up with the country’s challenges.
The neighbouring country keeps the largest number of Zimbabweans, estimated at over three million, who have been running away from the economic challenges in the country.
Namibia-based political analyst Admire Mare said South Africa was clearly getting annoyed by the country’s economic and political problems.
“It’s clear South Africa is getting fed up with unending political and economic problems which are also spilling into their local context.
“Frank talk which was meted out by ambassador (Mphakama) Mbete represents what has always happened behind closed doors between Zimbabwe and South Africa in terms of telling each other the truth in relation to what needs to be done to turn the tide of economic and political regression.
“While it is too early to conclude that this marks the end of quiet diplomacy and start of ‘no filters’ diplomacy, the situation in Zimbabwe certainly is testing the patience of her neighbours,” Mare said.
Addressing a Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) Economic Summit over a week ago, comprising diplomats, the country’s opposition and members of the ruling party, Mbete warned Zimbabwe that it risked missing on foreign direct investment (FDI) if it does not complete the ease of doing business reforms, including those relating to property rights.
He further warned that the ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra would remain a vision without competent reforms.
“Zimbabwe has presented itself to be open for business, which we believe is an appropriate approach to develop this country.
“However, in order to attract significant flows of foreign direct investment it is important that Zimbabwe reforms and improves its record concerning security of tenure and investment protection, repatriation of proceeds by investors, honouring bilateral trade investment agreements, the need to open up the economy to competition and optimal debt settlement.
“Research shows that nations with disruptive political economic situations are likely to be poor compared to those with inclusive economics, where the rule of law is protected and ransacking political manipulation are not tolerated.
“It is important for the State to play its role in the delivery of goods and services towards a better life for all Zimbabwean citizens. In terms of active citizenry, we believe it is important in economic development.
“Ultimately it is the citizens’ will which must prevail in order for the democracy to be sustainable,” he said.
His sentiments comes at a time when the country is battling a bad property rights record, and a shrunk democratic space that saw the arrest of many opposition and civil society activists with dissenting voices last year.
International Crisis Group’s southern Africa senior consultant, Piers Pigou, said South Africa had always been aware of the issues at play in Zimbabwe.
“… but has become increasingly alarmed at the growing disconnect between reform rhetoric and deteriorating conditions on the ground.
“South Africa is not saying anything new per se, but appears to have recognised an exclusive reliance on quiet diplomacy had failed to nudge Harare in the right direction, ironically along a path the (President Emmerson) Mnangagwa administration had undertaken to follow.
“I believe this reflects frustration, but it is also a proactive effort to expedite reform and reengagement. This implicitly reflects South Africa’s understanding that Zimbabwe’s trajectory has further negative repercussions for the region,” Pigou said.
International Relations minister, Naledi Pandor, while acknowledging that Zimbabwe needed the region’s support, recently said Pretoria strongly believed that Zimbabwe’s challenges could only be fixed by the country’s citizens, with the aid of its neighbours like South Africa and other countries in the region.
“By all accounts, there are serious and seemingly intractable political factors that might need attention if solutions are to be effective or implementable.
“The political formations in Zimbabwe remain at loggerheads and have apparent deep antipathy toward each other which makes joint decision making and planning extremely difficult.
“It seems clear that even as we support the call for an end to economic sanctions, the political dynamics are inextricably linked to the economic and thus should be confronted simultaneously.This can only be led from Zimbabwe and would certainly ease the development of Sadc contributions in response to the emergent compact,” she said.
Another political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said while South Africa had always been conscious of the problems in Zimbabwe, it was handicapped in terms of how to deal with the issues considering the historical relationship between the ruling Zanu PF and South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC).
“But with the changes of leadership in South Africa, the coming in of Cyril Ramaphosa, the coming in of Naledi Pandor as the International Relations minister, seemed to be also shifting the nature of relations, more so the concerns that the South African business has on the misbehaviour of the Zimbabwe government, the loss of investment, loss of income, lack of property rights and so forth.
“Lack of respect of property rights in Zimbabwe, the general lack of rule of law in Zimbabwe is beginning to hit the South Africans where it hurts most, that is in their pockets, hence we are seeing this heightened or increased voices coming from South Africa expressing concern on the state of politics and the economy in Zimbabwe.
“This certainly is a shift in the position of South Africa, whether this amounts to an open rebuke at a higher level of Zimbabwe, we have to wait and see but what this tells us is that the region is waiting for signals from Zimbabwe, other actors outside Zanu PF to propose on what needs to be done,” Mukundu said.
He said civil society organisations and the opposition should raise the stakes in terms of regional and international diplomacy to take advantage of this shift which could result in a more interest by the regional community.
Mukundu said this could help facilitate proper and acceptable political dialogue in Zimbabwe and possibly resolve the crisis that Zimbabwe was facing.