TWENTY years ago, the world was shaken by exciting good news. The Berlin Wall collapsed overnight as Germans requested their fundamental rights and their freedom.
Berlin became one again, and so did Germany. Today, Europeans live in unity and peace, and borders have almost disappeared.
Germans all over the world will never forget this happy moment. We have worked hard to overcome the legacy of partition, and many wounds have been healed. Today we find it hard to explain to our children what the wall was about. We have finally become a nation at ease with itself.
Welcome to the Day of German Unity!
Today one year ago, Véronique and I arrived in a town previously unknown to us. We took a room at its most renowned hotel, and sat down for dinner, at the end of which we were charged 32 million dollars.
The head waiter, smiling regretfully, was unable to explain to us what this meant in real terms. We looked at each other and began to realise that we had arrived in a country where real terms had been temporarily suspended.
That country, Zimbabwe as you will have guessed, has since changed profoundly. Many of its real terms have been re-established. Zimbabweans have all made new plans, something they are particularly good at. Life has improved considerably, and we all know why.
Confidence is growing among Zimbabweans, their African neighbours, and their friends on other continents that the darkest hour may now be behind us. One of the many consequences of the fresh wind blowing across the country is the renewed interest of foreign traders and investors in exploring new business opportunities. And they don’t just come from down south, but also from up north.
After an unwarranted interruption of 12 years, the Afrika-Verein, Germany’s prestigious association for promoting trade with, and investment in this continent, has organised the trip by 25 German business representatives and found a lot of interest among its member companies.
Three weeks from today, I myself will be touring my country’s major cities, speaking at a number of chambers of industry and commerce in order to report about opportunities for German re-engagement.
Re-engagement, my dear guests, is the flavour of the day. International aid, not only humanitarian in nature, is now flowing into key sectors of public services. The courageous economic measures taken by Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his team since February have convinced donors that the inclusive government is serious about Zimbabwe’s recovery.
Europe as a whole, and Germany as a bilateral partner, are assisting in many ways. Support from Europe represents the bulk of the funds now made available to ensure that seeds and fertiliser are in place for the coming planting season.
Europe’s contribution to the new Education Development Fund is considerable. The health sector, as well as the constitutional process, are being supported both by European countries bilaterally, and by the EU-Commission. As far as Germany is concerned, I am happy to tell you that bilateral transitional aid has kicked in since February in a number of areas, but first and foremost in the water sector where my country is about to assume a leading position.
German engineers have analysed the water situation in 10 of Zimbabwe’s 30 urban municipalities, and these rapid appraisals are now serving as a basis for immediate repair and renovation, funded by various donors. Cholera should never again make headlines in a country which used to have, and should soon have again, the best medical services in southern Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen, I for one fail to see where there are economic sanctions as we see substantial re-engagement across the country, in direct response to the most urgent needs of the Zimbabwean nation.
International confidence could return even faster with more signs of Zimbabwe’s determination to settle a number of issues which continue to be of concern.
Political interference in boardroom battles, new violent farm invasions, some of them affecting German property, the imposition of unwelcome partners on the owners of privately owned wildlife conservancies, lack of respect for the jurisdiction of international tribunals –– to mention only the most disturbing recent examples –– are not exactly the good news the outside world is eager to hear from Zimbabwe.
Let me put it in the words of the president of a neighbouring country who, during his recent visit to Harare, praised the pursuit of better governance, the respect for human rights, and the rule of law.
In this respect, he spoke of shared African values. I would go one step further, and call them universal values. Zimbabweans, as every other nation on the globe, have a right to see them respected by their rulers.
While the road back to normal life may be bumpy at times, it is the greater picture which matters in the long run. After one year of demanding, but fascinating work in this country, I am firmly convinced that Zimbabweans will get their act together, and surprise the world yet again as they did in the 1980s.
It is, and will continue to be, a privilege for me, my embassy staff, and all my fellow countrymen living and working in this country, to walk this road alongside our Zimbabwean friends.
Dr Conze is the German ambassador to Zimbabwe. This is an edited version of his address on German Unity Day (October 3), observed this year on October 2.