Sunday, October 05, 2008

Zimbabwe Should Learn From Cuba

Zimbabwe should learn from Cuba

By Political and Features Editor Mabasa Sasa
Zimbabwe Herald

EVERY year for well over a decade now without fail, Cuba presents to the United Nations a report outlining the effects of sanctions on the populace of the largest island in the Caribbean.

In that report, Cuba outlines the impact of the embargo that the United States imposed on that country just because the people there opted to go with a political, economic, social and indeed cultural ideology that is different from that espoused by Washington.

The result of this campaign has been that in 16 consecutive resolutions — since 1992 — the vast majority of the UN membership have called for the United States to lift its illegal embargo on the island.

Last year, 184 countries supported the resolution.

So convincing are the reports that even the United Kingdom, a close ally of the US in its sickeningly arrogant engagement of the non-white world, has had no reason not to support this resolution.

In fact, only the tiny nations of Marshall Islands and Palau support the US in opposing the resolution, along with Israel, because they all depend almost entirely on American charity and patronage for their day-to-day survival.

At the same time, Cuba has invested heavily in ensuring the rest of the world sees the injustice of America’s policy towards Havana; from supporting terrorists, barring US tourism to that country to blocking companies that want to from even buying a banana from the island.

In some 100 countries across the world, people have established various official solidarity organisations and pressure groups that lobby their home governments to press the US to change its policy towards Cuba as well as to simply educate the indigenous populations on what is happening on that island and how shameful Washington’s behaviour is.

Zimbabwe has a Zimbabwe-Cuba Friendship Society and a Free the Cuban 5 Committee (which lobbies for the release of five Cuban patriots who are being unjustly kept in American jails), and this is something that one will find in many countries across the globe.

The point is that Cuba has created a foreign policy that is geared towards fighting the illegal sanctions that it has had to live with for nearly half a century now.

More importantly, they have not only moulded such a foreign policy, but they have invested heavily in it in terms of both financial and human resources.

Staff at Cuban embassies and consulates all over Southern Africa — and this is likely the case across the world — are known to be extremely proactive in defence of their revolution and in spreading the word to the people of their host countries so that they are fully aware of what is going on.

That is why America has found it hard to sell the lie that Cde Fidel Castro presided over an evil system and his brother Cde Raul is the new great Satan overseeing a diabolic communist administration that enjoys imprisoning people and executing them for expressing a contrary view.

That is why since 1992 — and without fail this will be the 17th consecutive time — the world has overwhelmingly voted for a lifting of America’s illegal sanctions regime.

The question is: What are we doing?

Zimbabwe has been under official US sanctions for around five years now, though informal sanctions started round about the time this country intervened in the DRC to help a fellow Southern African nation defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity against the wishes of Western world that wanted anarchy to facilitate the unrestricted rape of that huge country’s vast natural resources.

And the fact is that it is highly unlikely that American and European Union sanctions will be lifted any time soon.

Of course, there is always need for optimism that common sense will prevail but history has shown us that it is easier to call for and see to the imposition of sanctions than it is to have them lifted.

Nelson Mandela — that man the West so much loves to celebrate as if they did not imprison him for close to three decades — was officially and legalistically regarded as a terrorist right up to this year as was the South African ruling party, the African National Congress!

The reality is that while people hope that sanity shall inform US and EU policies on Zimbabwe, it just might be a little while longer before these illegal measures are taken out of issue.

In the meantime what is the nation doing about this state of affairs?

It is not enough to repeatedly whine about the evils of sanctions without doing anything to mitigate their impact and cushion the people of Zimbabwe against the economic hardships.

Cuba has devised a foreign policy that emphasises the importance of showing the world the injustice that is being perpetrated by Washington.

The benefit of this approach is that the rest of the world no longer views Cuba through the lenses created by the United States.

As such, they formulate their own individual policies on Cuba that stand regardless of their individual policies towards the United States.

This has meant that over the years more and more countries have been doing business with Cuba rather than blindly follow America’s lead even though it is a real military risk to pursue a policy line opposed to Washington’s.

What have been Zimbabwe’s foreign policy objectives since the DRC war started and the West and its IMF decided to turn the screws on our economy?

In January 1999, a year after the DRC war started, the then Foreign Affairs Minister Cde Stan Mudenge outlined Zimbabwe’s foreign policy thus: "Zimbabwe's foreign policy objective is fundamentally to help safeguard and enhance the security and prestige of the country and the quality of life of its people by engaging with other countries at various levels in order to influence their behaviour so that an international environment conducive to the attainment of these goals is created and maintained.

"The challenge for our foreign policy is to formulate a series of policies and principles that would help create an international environment conducive to the attainment of that goal. What are those challenges? Security for the country. Peace and stability in the country and its environs to allow and encourage investment and economic development.

"They also include forming partnerships with others to create larger markets both for attracting greater investment interest from outsiders and regional players and also for our own companies to benefit from the economies of scale that come with those bigger markets."

This writer is yet to come across anything dramatically different from this policy position since 1999 and will proceed on the understanding that essentially our foreign policy largely remains the same as it was when Cde Mudenge explained it.

It appears as if since that time, President Mugabe has been at the forefront of these foreign policy objectives.

Here and there, some ministers and a few ambassadors have been seen to be doing anything to "help safeguard and enhance the security and prestige of the country and the quality of life of its people by engaging with other countries at various levels in order to influence their behaviour so that an international environment conducive to the attainment of these goals is created and maintained".

The inescapable truth is that had our diplomatic missions been doing this we would have been seeing greater involvement of the Non-Aligned Movement in advocating Zimbabwe’s position at forums such as the United Nations.

There has been a serious and debilitating failure by all the relevant stakeholders in the Government to successfully lobby for official international support for Zimbabwe in opposition to the sanctions.

More importantly, had a well co-ordinated information campaign been sustained in key countries across the globe investment and trade would have been growing.

This is because these countries would not take as Bible truth whatever the US and the EU say about Zimbabwe. They would have reliable and accurate information on what is going on in Zimbabwe at their fingertips and they would have greeted the pulling out of Western finance and capital as an opportunity to work with the Government of Zimbabwe.

Representatives of the country have been quite successful in emphasising that Zimbabwe is a sovereign country that is not a threat to international peace and security, but what have they done to convince the non-Western international community that Zimbabwe is open for business?

Our engagement with the international community should stop being so defensive and reactive and instead become more and more progressive and proactive.

This kind of policy paralysis cannot be allowed to go on for much longer.

More should be done to show that the agrarian reforms are an opportunity for international markets to seriously engage with well-organised small-scale farmers and to this end, as Prof Sam Moyo has in the past suggested, more representation is needed at forums like the World Trade Organisation.

Zimbabwe is allowing negative forces to shape its foreign policy and its engagement of other countries.

We are presently experiencing fuel shortages and yet we have friends in the oil-rich Middle East.

A truth is that this country has failed to translate its sound political ties in with Middle Eastern countries, particularly over the Palestine issue, into something of an economic and tangible value for the people of Zimbabwe whose welfare our foreign policy says it is concerned with.

It does not make any sense that Zimbabwe has failed to get reliable investors to assist in the exploitation of natural resources such as the Chiadzwa diamond fields.

We have been kindly informed by the Governor of the Reserve Bank that the Zimbabwe Mining Development Company, a parastatal, is carrying out a form of mechanised panning in Chiadzwa.

Are we seriously failing to get into mutually beneficial partnerships with our friends in Malaysia, India, Venezuela, South Korea and so many other countries so that the resources in this country start benefiting the general populace rather than a handful of well-heeled dealers and thugs in suits?

Zimbabwe has had the benefit of hindsight (and hindsight is always perfect) and there is thus no reason why we have not learnt from the lesson that Cuba provides for us.

Why is Zimbabwe not carrying out detailed studies and compiling reports on the impact of sanctions for presentation to the UN Secretary-General so that his position on the country is based on real information rather than Western lies?

Reports and active lobbying by our embassies all over the world will be far more productive than waiting to react to whatever new lies America and Britain dream up in their economic and political war with Zimbabwe.

And anyone who tries to claim that carrying out a sustained campaign of this magnitude would stretch scarce resources would be hiding behind a finger.

Cuba is not a rich country and they have managed to do it.

Firstly, we have far more natural resources at our disposal than the Cubans and so there is no reason why we cannot carry out similar campaigns, though structured to meet our particular case.

Secondly, it will be far more expensive in the long run if we fail to become proactive now and dream that by some miracle America will wake up one day and suddenly announce the lifting of sanctions.

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