HomeCommentThe wasted years

The wasted years

I TRY to attend as many national days as I can. They enable me to meet diplomats and civil society leaders with whom I can exchange views and learn something that hopefully enhances this newspaper’s perspectives.

On Tuesday it was Spain’s national day. Last year Ambassador Javier Sandomingo commented on Zimbabwe’s failure to respond to initiatives and opportunities provided by Spain and other European Union member-states. This year he chose instead to concentrate on Spain’s recent history.

Spain has a history of political intolerance and internal conflict, he pointed out, of which the civil war of 1936/9 was only the most recent damaging manifestation. After that bruising conflict the country retreated into dictatorship and isolation, unable to take advantage of Europe’s dramatic post-World War II recovery.

But all that changed after the death of General Franco in 1975 and the adoption in 1978 of a democratic constitution. Today Spain, a thriving democracy, is not without internal problems of regional secessionism.

But those problems are being addressed by a rapidly growing economy and the concession of local autonomy. Spain’s King Juan Carlos is the model of a constitutional monarch who has contributed much to the post-1975 democratic consensus in his country.

Spain today is a prosperous member of the European Union which it joined in 1986. It plays a full and important role in the councils of the EU and is part of the wider international community. As Spaniards celebrate the 25th anniversary of their 1978 constitution, they know from experience that political tolerance and constitutional governance provide rewarding dividends. Apart from a handful of stalwarts, there are few nostalgic memories today of the Franco era when Spain wasted 36 years wallowing in unproductive nationalism and isolation.

Mr Sandomingo’s remarks were apposite. The large audience attending the national-day event understood perfectly his point. What a pity that, as part of Zimbabwe’s retaliation against its perceived enemies, ministers and Zanu PF luminaries are unable to attend EU functions. They would have learnt so much from Spain’s experience. But burying their heads in the sand is part of the job description I suspect!

I have no doubt when this nightmare is over, we shall look back with grief on the wasted years of misdirected nationalism and isolation when all around us in the region were prospering.

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