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Zimbabwean businesses people would benefit if opportunities were opened for them to forge partnerships all over the world. For this, it's necessary for sanctions on the country to be lifted, writes Mpumelelo Mkhabela.
Robert Mugabe, the once invincible former president of
Zimbabwe, had a foreign policy that was cold towards the West.
In a defiant stance against US-led Western sanctions imposed
on Zimbabwe, he adopted the "Look East" policy. His political and
economic diplomacy focused on building relationships with countries of the
He would seek foreign direct investments and financial
assistance from countries like China. His family also looked East. While many
African leaders who either allowed their country's health systems to collapse
(like Zimbabwe) or failed to build them in the first place, sought medical
treatment in Europe, Mugabe turned to Singapore. For her expensive shopping
sprees, his wife Grace, switched from London to Hong Kong.
READ: Redi Tlhabi - 'New Zimbabwe' looks more and more like the old
On a serious note though, the policy yielded only
survivalist assistance from China; not nearly enough to pull Zimbabwe from the
self-inflicted economic trouble made worse by so-called smart sanctions imposed
by the United States (US) and its allies.
US sanctions can be damaging. The US largely controls the
international financial system. It owns the world's reserve currency, the
America has to exercise care when unleashing sanctions.
Placed in the hands of a hawkish administration, the power to impose economic
sanctions can be abused.
Some countries like Iran and Zimbabwe don't really deserve
to be sanctioned. Iran is a casualty of Trump's unmitigated dislike of
President Barack Obama and his foreign policy successes, particularly the
multilateral nuclear deal. You see, when a foreign policy is driven primarily
by the ego of the leader, thus making other considerations irrelevant, then a
crisis becomes inevitable in the long run.
Clearly having learned from the disaster of George W Bush's
"axis of evil" foreign policy that resulted in the misguided invasion
of Iraq to destroy Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction,
Obama crafted a rational deal with Iran to oversee its denuclearisation
programme. The lifting of sanctions was a carrot to induce compliance. Of
course, such rationality was bound to escape Trump's exclusively ego-driven
Zimbabwe's situation is a consequence of failure by
President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government to quickly adopt a clear foreign
policy of appeasement that could convince the US and its allies that Zimbabwe
The heavy-handed reaction to the nation-wide protest against
the maddening inflation makes the lifting of sanctions difficult. The response
by the security forces, and the loss of lives in the process, make Zimbabwe
look like a rogue state. Zanu-PF opponents would probably say it is. But
in truth, Zimbabwe is not a rogue state.
The sanctions are partly the reason Zimbabwe is in a messy
economic situation which, in turn, sparked uprisings. Originally the sanctions
were a response to Mugabe's bad political and economic management of Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa must demonstrate his government is different, not just by word of
Typically calm Zimbabweans could no longer fathom the
ever-rising prices of basic consumables. Mnangagwa should have – and still
must – develop a clear, globally oriented (Look both West and East) policy to persuade
the US and its allies to review the sanctions.
His government should present a programme to deal with all
the concerns that led to sanctions: human rights violations, arbitrary property
deprivation, concerns about the rule of law and electoral rigging.
ALSO READ: Mnangagwa's backroom deals bedevil progress in Zim
South Africa, through President Cyril Ramaphosa, has already
stated that the sanctions must be lifted. It's important that Ramaphosa has
made the call as president of a leading economy in the southern African region.
But instead of Mnangagwa focusing on developing a strategy to convince the
West to lift sanctions, he goes to Russia. Of all places!
Russia itself is under US sanctions and its economy is in
bad shape. It too has been looking for non-Western deals to shore up its weak
economy. Much worse, Americans are investigating Russia for alleged
interference in their presidential elections.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin seeks to build some form
of alliance to counter the West. He nearly hit a jackpot when Jacob Zuma almost
handed the economic sovereignty of South Africa to Russia through the nuclear
deal. It seems Putin, unlike Bosasa's Gavin Watson, was too slow to get Zuma's
attention, wasn't he? (Everyone knows how to get Zuma's attention). But I digress.
Mnangagwa must dump the Look East policy and focus on
rebuilding sound diplomatic relationships with Western countries. Even
investors from the East have relationships with the West. In fact, they do
deals with investors from the West.
Zimbabwean businesses people would benefit if opportunities
were opened for them to forge partnerships all over the world. The idea that
you could look to only a few countries to jumpstart your economy in this age of
globalisation is naive.
Often the egos of politicians stand in the way of sound
policies. Unfortunately, it doesn't bring any value to their nations. Ordinary
Zimbabweans are searching for jobs, any jobs, all over the world including the
West. Mnangagwa should follow the lead of ordinary Zimbabweans and re-engage
But he must first bring immediate stability at home. South
Africa has a role to play in helping Zimbabwe to become stable and restoring
its international standing. It's in our economic and security interests to do
so. An imploding Zimbabwe will be a disaster for South Africa – if it isn't
- Mkhabela is a regular columnist for News24.Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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