Thursday, November 23, 2017

Some Suggest Shift in Zimbabwe Domestic and International Approach: "President Mnangagwa Should Pursue a Pragmatic Foreign Policy", Editorial
November 24, 2017
Alexander Rusero Correspondent
Zimbabwe Herald

“IT doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.”

The famous quotation was echoed by the Chinese revolutionary and politician – Deng Xiaoping – who in his conviction pursued the policies the Chinese founding leader Chairman Mao had put in place but with more practicality and reform that led China to where it is today.

The swearing in of Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe marks a new epoch in the history of this State, particularly the country’s socio-economic and political infrastructure which is in desperate need of renovation, overhaul and complete change.

One thing Cde Mnangagwa’s predecessor successfully did was the total isolation of Zimbabwe from the international community and positioning it on the peripheries of globalisation and in the process failure by the entire Zimbabwean citizenry to benefit from the dividends of international cooperation.

The foreign policy pursued by Zimbabwe during the reign of Cde Robert Mugabe with the dawn of the new millennium was characterised by demonisation and confrontation as well as tired diplomacy of the erstwhile era no longer viable in the 21st century diplomatic approach. Arrogant diplomacy pursued by Cde Mugabe did more harm than good and became hinged more on personality, self-glory and ego than on benefitting the masses – a cardinal objective of any state’s foreign policy.

Foreign policy is critical at this juncture because it denotes to the activities evolved by communities for changing the behaviour of other states and for adjusting their own activities to the international environment. It is an indispensable engagement in that a state without foreign policy is like a ship without radar which drifts aimlessly without any directions by every storm and sweep of events.

Zimbabwe has had a foreign policy since its inception as a bonafide state in 1980. However, the foreign policy of Zimbabwe under Cde Mugabe had remained static and stuck in Cold War ideological standing without an inch of a movement. Such an approach is no longer viable under a Mnangagwa presidency largely because the country’s economy has been vandalised, its stature as an attractive state has been tainted whilst the bilateral stand-off between Cde Mugabe and the European Union has had devastating effects more to the generality of the masses.

Zimbabwe’s foreign policy has been hinged on five key principles, namely national sovereignty and equality among nations; attainment of a socialist, egalitarian and democratic society; the right of all peoples to self-determination and independence; non-racialism at home and abroad and positive non-alignment and peaceful co-existence among nations.

Zimbabwe’s foreign policy options have either been to maintain, modify or reconstruct the above principles originally outlined in 1980. The first two decades were preoccupied with the consolidation of independence and sovereignty of a newly independent state, multilateralism and non-alignment, given the bipolar Cold War rivalry between the USA with its allies and the USSR.

On the other hand, from 2000 Zimbabwe sought to construct a foreign policy framework informed by forging a regional alliance within the Sadc especially with governments led by former liberation movements as well as emphasising pan-Africanism and African issues.

Furthermore, preferable engagement was directed to the Eastern countries including China, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Iran in an approach Zimbabwe termed the Look East Policy. The Look East Policy is based on the belief that it was better to find alternative allies who did not worry about Zimbabwe’s domestic politics in terms of governance and democracy.

In the first decade after attaining independence, Zimbabwe’s foreign policy was generally pragmatic in the pursuit of socialist convictions and at the same time courting the Western capitalist bloc. This approach was largely successful thereby attracting a lot of international goodwill. Harare became Southern Africa’s diplomatic hub and key in the fight against apartheid and colonialism.

This foreign policy stance influenced Zimbabwe’s military intervention in Mozambique and Angola which were threatened by civil wars. Cde Mugabe’s condemnation of racism in South Africa and Namibia gave him a regional appeal as a statesman fighting racialism and championing equality.

Cde Mugabe entrenched Pan-Africanist sentiments within a region influenced by anti-imperialist and anti-colonial ideology of governments led by former liberation movements. The second decade of independence witnessed the abandonment of socialist principles following adoption of the Bretton Woods’ Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) which were largely unsuccessful and unpopular.

However, Zimbabwe’s foreign policy was still informed by similar circumstances of the first decade pertaining consolidation of independence and multilateralism. In 1997 the Tony Blair-led Labour government’s refusal to honour colonial obligations of funding Zimbabwe’s land reform programme prompted the Zimbabwean Government to embark on a radical land redistribution exercise.

The third decade of independence in 2000 marked a turning point of Zimbabwe’s foreign policy with the abandonment of the Western states as critical allies whilst re-invigorating the politics of solidarity and attaching memory of the liberation struggle within Sadc.

Zimbabwe’s foreign policy was anchored on national security interests, revival of African nationalism and a search of regional alliances. However, despite such endeavours, the political economy of Zimbabwe has impacted on the country’s foreign policy attracting different reactions from various quarters which resulted in the USA and the EU imposing sanctions and restrictive measures on Mugabe’s government in 2001 and 2002 respectively.

Mugabe’s construction of a discourse that sanctions was proof that Western states sought to recolonise Zimbabwe and the rest of the Global South has not been helpful in arresting its economic decline. Cde Mnangagwa ought to put in place mechanisms that attract international investment and measures that nip in the bud the continued economic recession in Zimbabwe.

Such measures surely require more pragmatism than rhetoric. Mugabe was a skilful champion of rhetoric but an ineffective actor to convert that into action. Although Zimbabwe’s foreign policy within Sadc from 2000 upfront has been instrumental in the preservation of Mugabe’s reign, it has had negative implications on the regional bloc given that millions of Zimbabweans have flocked to South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia and Malawi as economic refugees.

This has to be addressed, and it should be one of the first priorities President Mnangagwa should attend. The formulation and implementation of foreign policy is guided by a state’s national interests in form of the composite declaration derived from those values a nation prizes most.

We are quite convinced that Cde Mnangagwa aspires to see a better Zimbabwe than the one presided over by his predecessor. Zimbabweans are quite optimistic that under his watch Zimbabwe will be incorporated into the international community after almost two decades of painful isolation.

The worst thing Cde Mnangagwa’s presidency should indulge in is the permanent definition of Zimbabwe’s friends and enemies. This is not only costly to the much desired cooperation and re-engagement Zimbabwe desperately needs, but to his stature and leadership personality as someone perceived by many as a reformist and pragmatist.

Foreign policy to be pursued by Cde Mnangagwa ought to be informed by pragmatism; it is no longer about Zimbabwe the enemy of the West and the friends of the East – that is a bygone era.

The viable diplomatic and foreign policy approach in the 21st century is one premised on attractiveness. Zimbabwe’s Government should re-engage everyone progressive nation going forward. In May 2014, the then Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said his Government was ready for systematic engagement with the whole world but Mugabe’s foreign policy did not practically shift and point towards willingness to cooperate.

Domestically Zimbabwe should embrace a culture of diversity; one informed by human acceptance that people can agree to disagree.

Alexander Rusero is a PhD candidate specialising in Zimbabwe’s foreign policy.

No comments: