Learning from Zimbabwe’s 2008: Why foreign policy matters to South Africa’s 2019

    By Mafusire Mafusire

    As South Africa draws closer to the 2019 elections it is important that the political parties and their candidates are reminded of matters that they should not avoid in their political manifestos. Of course, domestic policies have been the basis of most elections not just in South Africa but in most underdeveloped countries.

    The opposite has been clear in countries such as France and USA where the presidential candidates had to exhaustively elaborate on how they would use resources and diplomacy to maintain a healthy foreign policy. What seems to be absent on the minds of most African politicians is the fact that there is a symbiotic relationship between foreign policy and domestic policy. History has shown that both a passive and unregulated interventionist foreign policy will ultimately have a boomerang effect that will show up in very ugly ways.

    South Africa was appointed the mediator in Zimbabwe’s 2008 runoff elections after neither of the contesting parties garnered the required 50 percent plus one vote required to form a government. The mediation role was flimsily undertaken and was highly compromised. President Mugabe frustrated South Africa’s efforts by passing some politically frustrating sentiments on two occasions.

    First by boasting that Zimbabwe was in the SADC block voluntarily and can walk out if they wish so. Secondly, by calling Lindiwe Zulu (South African envoy) a “stupid idiotic women” and a “little street walker”. Surely, South Africa was not aware of the man they were dealing with as there was no reprimand from the government, the ANC and the subjectively vocal ANCWL or from the opposition and civil societies. As a result, Zanu PF’s bullishness paid off, the mediators gave the green-light for the violence ridden runoff which was boycotted by the main opposition party the MDC.

    The one man election was disputed and mediators recommended the formation of a Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2009. The GNU has been widely accredited for some improvements in the national economy and the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, this temporary reprieve saw a steady decline in the number of Zimbabweans migrating to South Africa. Though blamed in some quarters as the “animal” that legitimised Zanu PF’s election fraud, the GNU shows us how coordinated regional effort can bring about stability.

    The Great Trek to South Africa

    It is apparent that the shambolic elections of 2008 set a very bad precedence which could be seen in the way the 2013 elections were conducted. The 2013 elections produced an illegitimate leadership that is struggling to mirror an acceptable image to the world. The leadership has failed to come up with strategies to uplift the country from dire economic conditions and promote cohesion among citizens. The struggling economy and political repression have resulted in many Zimbabweans abandoning their country for South Africa. Africa

    Check found has it that the number of Zimbabwean nationals crossing into South Africa almost doubled from 400 to more than 700 daily since the shameful presidential and parliamentary elections of 2013.

    To address the ever increasing number of foreign nationals getting employed, South African politicians and trade unionists welcomed the provision to restrict employers from employing a high number of foreign nationals. There is no doubt that this is a myopically thought solution, which is based on blaming the victim. The solution to exclude migrants from employment will not help alleviate the likely costs of having a large number of unemployed migrant population in the country.

    South Africa accedes to a number of regional and global refugee protection statutes which would oblige it to support the refugees. It is highly misleading even to contemplate that excluding migrants would force them to go back to their countries-HELL NO- go back to what, when they left countries in shambles. It is a fact that, no amount legislative frameworks, razor wires, crocodiles or guns can keep desperate immigrants out.

    The migrants who travel from Africa to Europe, sailing on makeshift boats have taught us one lesson – human mobility in the 21 century has become mostly a livelihood strategy, people would rather die fleeing than die sitting. Therefore, any serious presidential candidate must show how they intend to address political truancy in the region and ensure the region has attained political and economic stability. Though migration is a natural phenomenon it is arguably acceptable to postulate that the stability of the region would help mitigate the skewed migration pattern.

    The current crisis which is unfolding in Zambia has not been condemned by the South Africa government. That makes one wonder if the current crop of leadership we have in the region is a clique of mafias. If ignored, the crisis in Zambia will affect South Africa in the same way Zimbabwe’s crisis has affected South Africa. In the same way, RENAMO war in Mozambique affects Zimbabwe. Why are our leaders choosing to ignore our recent and contemporary history? Remember the “mad dog” Id Amin was removed from power by Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.

    Recently Jammeh was forced out of power by the ECOWAS block led by Senegal. The wisdom of our forgone father tells us that Kugara nhaka huona dzevamwe, which means one’s actions or decisions are guided by the experiences of others. There is value in learning from others who have been exposed to similar circumstances. It is important that the South Africa’s presidential candidates warn whoever the winners of preceding elections in the region that from 2019 onwards it will not be business as usual says Mafusire Mafusire



    Khuluma Afrika is a center for political analysis and investigative journalism

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