ZIMBABWE’S FOREIGN POLICY
What is Foreign Policy?
The Foreign Policy of a country can be defined as a set of goals that seek to outline how that country will interface at an official level with other countries of the world and, to a lesser extent, with non-state actors in pursuit of its national economic, political, social and cultural interests.
In order to realise maximum benefit from its interaction with other countries, as well as to promote or influence some change in the policies, attitudes or actions of another state to achieve favourable goals, a country needs to also evaluate and monitor a broad spectrum of factors relating to those other countries. These factors could be economic, political, social, and military among many others.
The formulation and implementation of a foreign policy is therefore primarily based on a country’s desire or obligation to foster and protect its national interests, national security, independence, sovereignty, ideological goals and economic prosperity.
Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy Objectives
Zimbabwe’s foreign policy objectives are grounded in safeguarding the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; the protection of its prestige and image ; the pursuit of policies that improve the standard of living of all Zimbabweans wherever they are; and the creation and maintenance of an international environment conducive for the attainment of these goals.
In the creation and pursuit of these objectives, Zimbabwe is guided by its belief in self-determination and support for liberation movements; adherence to the principle of national sovereignty; respect for territorial integrity of all countries; promotion of the principle of equality among nations; belief in non-discrimination, whether based on colour, creed, religion or other forms; and the promotion of peaceful settlement of disputes and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.
In simple terms, Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy, as with that of any other country, is an extension of its domestic policy since it is the supreme national interest that drives the conception of a country’s foreign policy. The fundamental principles of national security, national economic well-being and the image of the country that transcends the image of the Government of the day therefore form the foundation of Zimbabwe’s foreign policy.
Formulation of Foreign Policy
The creation and enunciation of Foreign Policy is a prerogative of the Head of State or Government. It is then articulated either by the Head of State or Government or by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In some instances, the legislature may also have considerable oversight in formulating such policy.
Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy is formulated through a transparent participatory or consultative process involving various stakeholders at various levels.
The President of the Republic of Zimbabwe sets the parameters of Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy, whilst Government Ministries, for example the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Industry and Commerce, Regional Integration and International Co-operation, Health and Child Welfare and Transport and Infrastructural Development, play a significant role in moulding, shaping and refining the country’s Foreign Policy. The Parliament of Zimbabwe has a direct input into Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy through Parliamentary debates and the ratification of foreign and international treaties.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in particular is charged with the responsibility of co-ordinating the implementation of Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy through its interface with foreign envoys in Zimbabwe and abroad, relying mainly on its personnel at Head Office and at its diplomatic Missions located strategically throughout the globe.
Implementation of Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy
The implementation of Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy is guided by a number of considerations, namely, forging regional, political, economic and cultural co-operation with Zimbabwe’s neighbors as well as with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) regions; promoting African unity and solidarity through the African Union (AU); development through regional and sub-regional initiatives; promoting solidarity and cohesion among developing countries through such organizations as the Non-Aligned Movement; promoting South-South cooperation through the Group of Fifteen (G15), the Group of Seventy Seven (G77) and other organisations; and promoting international peace, security and co-operation through the United Nations.
The pursuit of Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy is clearly demonstrated by Zimbabwe’s commitment to the furtherance of international peace, security and the search for sustainable economic development in various spheres. The pursuit of these objectives can help to explain for instance, Zimbabwe’s military role in support of Mozambique’s campaign against RENAMO rebels during the 1980s, its military engagement in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the 1990s as well as Zimbabwe’s distinction in UN-peacekeeping operations in Angola, Somalia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kosovo and East Timor.
Promoting Zimbabwe’s Political Interests
Relations with Zimbabwe’s neighbours in SADC are of paramount importance and as a result, the country is proud to be an active member of a united family of 15 nations with shared goals, ambitions and developmental targets. Apart from helping to consolidate SADC solidarity, cohesion and mutual support that have driven the organisation since its inception, Zimbabwe has been instrumental in the institutionalisation of SADC and has committed itself to the full implementation of its decisions.
Zimbabwe has taken an active interest in the activities of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation set up by SADC to deal with inter and intra-state conflict resolution while recognizing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states. Zimbabwe takes pride in this milestone and other institutions and mechanisms that include the SADC Mutual Defence Pact and the formation of the SADC Brigade.
The SADC members took the decision to conclude the Mutual Defence Pact on the basis of the principle of collective security. More importantly, this principle promotes the “injure one, injure all” concept which saw the region come to the rescue of the DRC in the 1990s. The SADC Brigade will not only contribute to peace and security in the region but the continent as a whole, under the auspices of the African Standby Force.
Zimbabwe recognises that challenges for SADC remain, which include institutional weaknesses and the need to align domestic polices to the implementation of the region’s policies.
The African Union
The revolutionary background of Zimbabwe has broadly defined the Pan-Africanist thrust of its Foreign Policy and relations with other African countries. This is in recognition of the prominent role that the continent played in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.
Within the AU, Zimbabwe is satisfied with the progress made towards the setting up and consolidation of the AU’s institutions and mechanisms and stresses the importance of Africa’s ownership of these institutions and processes.
Zimbabwe’s view is also that the development and success of the AU depends heavily on regional groupings such as SADC as building blocs.
In its contribution to the on-going debate on UN reform, Zimbabwe maintains that the UN should be more representative, democratic, and accountable and development oriented. It should be the main advocate and custodian of multilateralism in the face of growing unilateralism. Africa must be fully represented in the Security Council.
Zimbabwe fully identifies with the African position or the Ezulwini Consensus on UN reform whose main elements include the allocation to Africa in the Security Council of two permanent seats and three more non-permanent seats; and either scrapping of the veto for all permanent members or extension of the same to all members. It should be noted here that Africa is the only continent without the veto in the present set up.
Promoting Zimbabwe’s Economic Interests
Foreign policy cannot limit itself to matters of high politics alone. Increasingly, it must also deal with socio-economic developmental issues especially in so far as these need co-ordination and co-operation between and among states. Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy is thus designed to foster economic development and job creation globally and in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe must therefore engage with other countries, through regional blocs such as COMESA, to help shape the regional economic architecture in order to meet these ends.
Zimbabwe has wholly endorsed the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) process as an African and African-driven initiative and believes that with proper management, the Initiative can indeed benefit the continent. It is encouraging that the SADC and NEPAD Secretariats resolved to meet regularly, and that the SADC Secretariat has scaled up its co-ordination of, and participation in NEPAD activities.
However, Zimbabwe objects to attempts at hijacking NEPAD by donor nations and using it to divide the continent into good and bad Africans with the former being rewarded and the latter punished.
From a broader perspective, Zimbabwe’s diplomatic missions also engage in direct communication with potential investors, countries and organisations that seek to establish and deepen business relations with Zimbabwe. Embassies co-ordinate the search for new trade, investment and tourism opportunities and promote co-operation in science and technology with other countries in addition to providing consular services to all Zimbabweans.
They also negotiate conventions, protocols, bilateral and multilateral treaties and ensure compliance with the provisions to maximise benefits for the country.
The Land Reform Programme
The land reform process in Zimbabwe, which the West strongly criticised from its inception, is an integral feature of Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy, and the reluctance by some countries to recognise its centrality to economic development and stability has continued to strain relations with some sections of the international community.
Land will remain the vehicle for the total emancipation and liberation of the nation of Zimbabwe from the yoke of colonialism, settlerism and neo-colonialism in all its forms.
Zimbabwe is very grateful for the solidarity and support received from SADC, the AU and the Non-Aligned Movement and China against Western resistance to the land re-distribution programme.
In the context of what has become the Western media’s obsession with Zimbabwe over the latter’s assertiveness and defence of its nationhood and national economic heritage, the Foreign Policy challenges arising therefrom include the repeated references to Zimbabwe’s relationship with its former coloniser, the UK; its relationship with the European Union (EU) and the United States’ economically damaging legislation in the form of the punitive Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of December 2001.
The bilateral dispute with the UK is a very wasteful standoff, which has turned attention away from the real priorities embodied in existing frameworks for bilateral and multilateral cooperation between Zimbabwe and Britain.
Regrettably, the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law (the very values for which the people of Zimbabwe fought and died) are now being transformed into instruments for punishment by some sections of the international community.
Zimbabwe-EU relations became strained when the EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe on the pretext that the 2002 Presidential elections, which the EU did not observe, were not free and fair. Subsequently, the bloc rejected the verdict of the March 2005 Parliamentary elections which gave the ruling Party a landslide victory and, lately also rejected the results of the June 2008 Presidential run-off election. Since then the West has continued with its attempts at effecting illegal regime change in Zimbabwe, to the extent of even politicising the cholera outbreak so as to justify interfering in the internal affairs of the country. Thus the EU has taken unilateral measures and made unilateral demands without due dialogue or engagement taking place yet Zimbabwe has always been ready to dialogue with it.
Since the US’s promulgation in December 2001 of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, Zimbabwe has reeled under tightened economic sanctions that include the prohibition of budgetary assistance by the IMF and the World Bank as well as other sources.
The Look East Policy
Confronted with these numerous challenges resulting from the sanctions, the Government of Zimbabwe adopted the LOOK EAST POLICY. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been on the forefront to implement this policy, guided by the Government’s Policy, Vision and Strategy documents designed to increase Zimbabwe’s cooperation with a number of countries in Asia and the Far East.
The Visions and Strategies provide guidelines on the thrust of Zimbabwe’s co-operation and prioritise projects in which a co-operating country has expressed interest, projects in which Zimbabwe has comparative advantage, projects that are ready for implementation, projects that will promote exports, joint ventures and projects meant to assist in the re-capitalization of distressed public enterprises.
Consequently, a deliberate decision was made to initially focus on China, Iran, Indonesia, India and Malaysia in effecting the above policy, hence broadening the scope of Zimbabwe,s foreign policy.
However, in international relations, and therefore in the pursuit of a country’s Foreign Policy, there is an unwritten understanding that there are no permanent friends or enemies, but permanent interests. Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy therefore, strives to foster long-standing relationships of mutual co-operation and trust.
It must also be noted that advancing Zimbabwe’s national interests is not a task for the Government alone, let alone the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but for all Zimbabweans. It requires dialogue and understanding among Government, business and the rest of the community. If Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy is to succeed, it must aim to mobilize the understanding and support of all Zimbabweans.
Every Zimbabwean therefore has a duty to his or her country no matter what differences there may be with the Government of the day. These are supreme national interests, which must be defended by all and at all times. The country’s image must not be sullied in return for short-term gains. These are the fundamentals that all patriotic Zimbabweans should defend as a matter of course.