POSITIVE VIBRATIONS NO 148: Lessons from Zimbabwe’s undeclared war

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IT is almost 20 years ago that the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, “went on rampage” campaigning for sanctions against Zimbabwe. We all know by now that for our friends in the West, you touch one, you touch all.

It is a spirit of solidarity, which I truly commend. President Robert Mugabe, was demonised and the once attractive symbol of prosperity – Zimbabwe, pauperised.

Zimbabwe is open for business

While Zimbabwe is open for business, it is common sense that sanctions never create conditions for economic growth.

My concern is that there is a danger that what begun as a strategy for regime change, could easily give birth to another system of survival, anchored on what Zimbabwe, and then as Southern Rhodesia, under Ian Smith, went through.

Cuba is an example of a country which has faced sanctions from the United States from the early sixties, and is still standing, albeit with challenges. Sanctions, trade wars, embargos etc., are no good for the global economy!

To push the point of unfairness home, when the USA declared war against Sadam Hussein’s Iraq, in search of weapons of mass destruction, a respected British newspaper printed a controversial cartoon (somebody would have gone to jail elsewhere), suggesting that no matter how privately busy, the British Prime Minister was, he/she would abandon anything to honour cooperation with America!

A shell of its former self

Yes, accordingly, based on reports from Harare and others, America joined the queue of enforcing sanctions. Truth be told, as at now, Zimbabwe is a shell of its former self. (In fact, I have come to admire the undying fighting spirit of the people of Zimbabwe. They fought the Ian Smith regime, anchored on the disgraceful apartheid system and the rest is history).

It is not in dispute that sanctions on Zimbabwe were targeted at the regime of President Mugabe, and now President Mnangagwa. The reality is that the country and its people have been terribly shaken and almost destroyed.  Hyperinflation faces business and citizens. Not even the local architects of this economic meltdown will survive it!

With some information about the struggle and the actual negotiations, we really do not know what President Mugabe, ultimately paid for. Did he pay because he stood against Britain or because of the complicated negotiations at Lancaster House? Was the Lancaster House agreement fully executed and to the satisfaction of all the parties, including distant ones such as Zambia?

In my view, from what is coming through, land grabbing was just a pretext. One day, an academic question will be asked. It could be something like this: With reference to the 2000 Presidential Election and Land reforms in Zimbabwe, discuss concretely, the resultant sanctions and its effect on the Southern African country.

It is actually quite easy for those who would like to promote irresponsibility and unreasonable or inhuman behaviour to describe views as above as defending poor governance.

How so? Truth is that President Mugabe is no longer at the helm of Zimbabwe and notwithstanding the many and sometimes diametrically opposed views, it only requires a human eye and heart to see and appreciate that the people of Zimbabwe are suffering the consequences of political disruption evidenced by democratic rapture.

Rhodesian minority regime

Can it be said that the Rhodesian minority regime was democratic and respected human rights? If we are happy to say, “But the Smith debacle ended in 1980.”

Well, the world and in particular the West and its supporters locally, has been “pounding” Zimbabwe for 20 years. The likely outcome, but for the impressive Chimurenga spirit; is a failed state as we saw of what happened in Somalia. In this scenario, my take is that there is no winner but a total zero sum for all.

Video by South African opposition leader

I do not agree with all the descriptions on a video by South African opposition leader, Julius Malema but I endorse his sentiments of disappointment and anger.

I did not read the details of a story of what opposition leader Dr Fred M’membe alluded to, when he is reported to have said that “we have let the people of Zimbabwe down.” I agree.

We have the capacity to do more! (It is not always about money).

Lest we forget, the blood of the “Chikumbi massacre – a few kilometres from Lusaka is on the hands of the racist blood thirsty human rights violators, endorsed by known countries. As if that was not enough, the post Zimbabwe era witnessed many upheavals, including the nasty well reported incidents in Bulawayo, by the 5th Brigade (Gukurahundi). Efforts to have this matter widely campaigned on, failed as the big powers then, were behind President Mugabe. (It is just that things changed)

Very recently, the world cheered a clear military coup in Zimbabwe, where a democratically elected leader was removed, but I guess, it was seen as a better “evil,” in which case, the continued imposition of sanctions, is extremely suspect.

So, then what are the lessons from Zimbabwe?

  1. Zimbabwe is facing an undeclared economic war. The high levels of desperation at the moment, make collapsing the state of Zimbabwe a very easy affair, which on the surface, cannot be blamed on the outside world.
  2. We need to as a matter of urgency, have faith in our institutions of democracy and take successes and failures, seriously. I personally commend the Catholic Church in the DRC for its position, not to add fuel to opposition claimants of victory, but tacitly, support a process which clearly, promotes and results in peace.
  3. Elections have become a very thorny issue in Africa. It is in the interest of SADC to take a leadership role in elections that take place in the SADC region.

In the same vein, SADC must prioritise the Zimbabwe situation and call for the immediate lifting of sanctions, because this unfair offensive and undeclared war, can visit any of the countries.

  1. There is a need to strengthen the National Human Rights Institutions, or any other such structures so that good governance and human rights accusations, do not become an excuse for notorious agendas.
  2. Zambia, must with the assistance of all its cooperating partners, truly diversify and take a serious bite of ownership on its resources. It is not impossible to claim back what truly belongs to Zambia. Here, I wish us to appreciate the fact of ownership and possession because of realities such as “Whose Capital and whose state?”
  3. Zambia, must refine and strengthen its self-interest agenda. It is unacceptable to allow political reversals. The blood spilt during the struggle for liberation, will NOT and NEVER rest if we allow for a relapse, in the form of another foreign domination, because of economic “strangulation.” (Africa Freedom Day, will become meaningless).
  4. Several leading authors, and political analysts have indicated that what Africa needs is not dead AID as Dambisa Moyo puts it, but trade. Can SADC intensify regional trade and cooperation?
  5. It is possible to take what is happening in Zimbabwe as a Zimbabwean affair only. But that is wrong. It is a SADC problem. (Remember Bob Marley’s song on Zimbabwe! He also sung about African Unity). Its precursor, the Front-Line States, fought hard for South Africa to be free. President Kaunda would say, “Africa will never be free until, South Africa is free.”
  6. The stance by Britain on Zimbabwean sanctions is very suspect and worrisome. Britain opposed legitimate calls for sanctions against barbarism by the apartheid regime in racist South Africa. The British government argued that “Blacks will suffer more”. So then, what is different on Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans?

It must be mentioned here that one of the strongest Anti-Apartheid movement, was in Britain, in contrast to the Prime Minister Thatcher-driven official position. This, in my view demonstrates the power of civil society; but agitating in a civilised manner. In this respect, I salute the former British Anti-Apartheid movement.

In contrast to the official British policy, the Scandinavian countries adopted very progressive policies on South Africa. As we shall see below, this was not an accident!

  1. The New South Africa led by Nelson Mandela, is an example of the power of composite energies. While there may be a single explanation on what could have transpired in the change-over from white domination to a full democracy, no single formula, could have won the day.

The Frontline states had their bite. So was the rest of Africa and the civilised world appalled by inhuman and barbaric treatment of fellow human beings. It was a combination of efforts.

This is what truly presents a lesson from the undeclared war in Zimbabwe. The former Frontline States, now SADC, need to respond to Zimbabwe in a manner that (a) Diagnoses the problem correctly (b) Responds to the reality of the reported economic melt-down, (c) Provides hope and security of person and property to the people of Zimbabwe.

This approach could arrest the possible reversals and stagnation of democracy, as an imported system of governance. Since it is in the best interest of the world for democracy to thrive, necessary panel beating, by way of adaptation and ensuring that SADC citizens, respect institutions of government/governance, is inevitable.

The major lesson is that from all that has happened, we can draw lessons, which prepares us to deal with political experiments.

See you next week.

Comments: ngandem12@gmail.com Mobile/SMS 0977776191

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