IN recent weeks, Zimbabweans have witnessed frantic efforts by the government to make a discernible shift in foreign policy thrust. As we report elsewhere in this issue today, the country — increasingly isolated on the international stage — is now closing ranks with its neighbours and other regional nations.
The United States is expected to maintain or tighten sanctions against Harare in the coming week. This comes hard on the heels of the European Union’s strong condemnation of gross violations of civil liberties. Britain has vowed not to support Zimbabwe’s quest to re-join the Commonwealth unless it changes course. The idea behind Harare’s newly crafted regional game plan is now crystal clear.
This week, Zimbabwe hosted bi-national commission meetings with Botswana in the capital, where the two countries signed several agreements and committed to stronger relations, which had soured during former president Robert Mugabe’s controversial rule. President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Botswana’s Mokgweetsi Masisi chaired the last stage of the three-day meetings.
Zimbabwean officials were left embarrassed after Botswana rejected their claim that the neighbouring country had agreed to provide a US$600 million credit facility. As it turned out, the reports of a miraculous “rescue package” breakthrough were not only unfounded but also reflective of Zimbabwe’s desperate quest for economic salvation. As reported by the Zimbabwe Independent recently, South Africa has rebuffed Harare’s request for a US$1,2 billion emergency credit bailout. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with cultivating more cordial relations with neighbouring countries, the stark reality is that we cannot realistically expect an economic bailout package from the region. The level of foreign investment needed by this country will not come from Botswana — a country which has shone as a model of democracy and relative economic stability, but is still a developing state which also needs the support of the international community. Besides, Botswana is a constitutional democracy. It is not possible for that country’s government to extend an economic rescue package to Zimbabwe without first informing that country’s parliament. Democratic accountability would not permit it. Zimbabwe-South Africa bi-national commission meetings will be held in Harare soon. Again, although South Africa is the continent’s most industrialised economy, the powerhouse is grappling with serious problems of its own. There is no way Pretoria can cobble together a rescue package for Zimbabwe, beyond the currently existing token credit lines. Mnangagwa’s government needs the international community. Any other supposition is wishful thinking.
What Zimbabwe must do without further haste — as we have always advised — is to expedite the implementation of a raft of economic and political reforms, which this country has set for itself in line with constitutional imperatives. The international community is not making impossible demands. Not at all. What the world community is eager to see is a serious implementation of reforms which Zimbabwe has set for itself. There is nothing “imperialist” about stopping the extra-judicial killing of civilians by soldiers. Indeed, there is nothing sinister about embracing genuine economic reform.