New Foreign Policy Approach the key — Analysts

ZIMBABWE’S inclusive government should come up with a robust foreign policy to attract external support if the current crisis is to be resolved, political analysts have said.


The analysts said the unity government to be sworn in today by President Robert Mugabe would urgently need the assistance of development partners if the comatose economy is to be revived.

The United States, Britain and the European Union said they would wait and see how the new government performs before lifting sanctions and offering financial support.

But analysts warned that without external support the prospect of resolving the current crisis would be remote.

Mugabe and the leaders of the two MDC formations — Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara — signed a unity government deal last September through a Sadc mediation process, but the pact could not be immediately consummated because of haggling over posts between Zanu PF and the MDC-T.

It took an extraordinary summit of Sadc last month to persuade Tsvangirai to join the unity government.
On Wednesday he finally took the oath of office as prime minister alongside his deputies, Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe (MDC-T).

However, fears abound that the government would not be able to move the country forward after the international community said it would adopt a wait-and-see attitude on how the new administration will function before doling out aid.

Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean lawyer based in the UK, said the new administration would need to open up to the world and desist from creating unnecessary enemies.

“For one thing, it must be acknowledged that the Look East and Anti-West foreign policy of the recent past has not been helpful to the people of Zimbabwe,” Magaisa said. “But the fact that the MDC-T has cordial relations with the West does not mean that it should race straight into its arms and in the process snub the East.”

He said careful diplomacy must be the predominant approach of the unity government.

“The new administration must mend broken fences and re-build damaged bridges whilst at the same time strengthening those that are already there. A belligerent approach will get us nowhere,” said Magaisa.

Zimbabwe-born South African businessman Mutumwa Mawere agreed with Magaisa and added that there was need for a major shift in the country’s foreign policy if the current crisis was to be resolved.

He said the country needed to reengage the international community sooner rather than later.

“Zanu PF has been calling for the lifting of sanctions which highlights the fact that the status quo ante was, and is, alive to the need to restore relations with the West notwithstanding the rhetoric,” Mawere said.

“However, the timing could not have been worse as the same (Western) countries are going through their own crises which compels them to look inwards first before volunteering to solve the world’s problems.”

He said with a limited supply of international credit, it behooves the inclusive government to come up with a unified strategy and a coherent plan of action.

“Discord among the new partners in the unity government will provide an excuse for the West to wait and see. It is clear who has to give and who needs to take a back seat if the country is to move forward,” Mawere explained. “The politics of yesterday will just not work. A new framework of engagement will be required. The West has its own take on the Zimbabwean situation and it would be simplistic to argue that MDC-T is responsible for sanctions.”

He suggested that until and unless the concerns that have been registered by the West were addressed, it was unlikely that the urgently needed capital and development assistance would pour in.
Magaisa said it was beyond doubt that Zimbabwe needed international financial support to kick-start the stuttering economy.

“The very fact that the current government complains about sanctions and wants them lifted is indicative of the general awareness that Zimbabwe cannot continue to exist as some kind desert island,” he observed. “Zimbabwe has gone for years without balance of payments support; without accessing international lines of credit, partly because of the punitive measures employed by some countries but also because the country has not passed the normal standards of credit-worthiness.”

Beyond international financial support, Magaisa insisted, Zimbabwe needed to enhance its productive capacity through efficient and effective exploitation and management of resources.

The analysts said there would be conditions attached to any form of financial support and key fundamentals such as creating a conducive investment climate and supporting the constitutional and legal order should be put in place.

In addition, the analysts said, the new government should state categorically that they will respect property and human rights and the restoration of the rule of law.

The analysts said land ownership and its utilisation will also be key to the future.

“Zimbabwe’s foreign policy has to be supportive of the domestic agenda. Zimbabwe has been vocal on global financial architectural issues and the need for reform,” observed political scientist Michael Mhike. “The voice will continue but tempered by the reality of the situation at home. There are no easy answers and the crisis at home will and should shape foreign policy.”

He said new faces in government should come on the scene to articulate the country’s position on the defining issues of the time.

“Zimbabwe has many friends in the developing world who lack the resources required to lift the country up and this realisation will force the new actors to change approach, language and style,” Mhike observed.
He said Tsvangirai would have to be the face the West can deal with if the unity government’s foreign policy is to work.

“With respect to the former socialist countries, Mugabe still has some currency and will continue to be the face of Zimbabwe. However, it is unlikely that such countries will provide any meaningful development assistance other than trying to access on a preferential basis Zimbabwe’s largely untapped resources,” Mhike said. “Mugabe’s views on domestic and global issues are known. The approach that has informed government policies over the last 29 years has not produced the required results and it would, therefore, be expected that Mugabe will allow Tsvangirai more room to manoeuvre in the interests of the nation.”

Even Tsvangirai — who is charged with reviving the economy — is aware of the Herculean task he will face without external financial support and has pledged to make the government accountable “to ensure the international community has confidence in it.”

To build the confidence, political analysts said, the inclusive government in the short term needed to deal with urgent humanitarian issues, arresting the economic depression and ensuring that ordinary people have access to food, health care and education.

They said another short-term imperative was image rebuilding.

“One of the reasons we get such a bad world press is that our image as a country has gone to the dogs, mainly because of our own doing,” Magaisa said. “We need not only to stop the reckless behaviour, but to show the world that we have stopped it. This can be done by freeing political prisoners, repealing or reforming contentious legislation, freeing up the media to allow a diversity of views – also creating employment in the process!”

In the long term, the analysts said there would be need for structural reforms to the way the country is governed and should be the main aim of the constitution-making process elaborated in the power-sharing deal.

“They (structural reforms) also involve proper and well-considered economic policies where the country’s best talents are used to achieve the best results for individuals and society,” Mawere added.

Many Zimbabweans hope that after so much pain and suffering in the past decade, the unity government would bring a fresh start and they want their politicians to be honest, fair and efficient. Only time will tell!

BY CONSTANTINE CHIMAKURE