Sink or Swim Together
An overview of the history of southern Africa clearly shows how
our economies are and how interdependent we have always been. This is
altogether supported by the statistics but that does not take account
informal sector activity as well as transport and communications.
But increasingly we are now also connected by politics. The new world
within which we all have to operate and live, demands that individual
must conform to certain standards that are increasingly being accepted
international norms. We are required to follow democratic principles in
we choose our leadership. We are expected to limit our budget deficit
somewhere around 3 per cent of GDP. We must accept the new rules for
within the global village - free trade and competitive markets are the
qua non of business. We are expected to observe and respect all basic
and political rights.
Fail in any of these areas and countries immediately face sanctions of
kind or the other. Not mandatory UN sanctions such as were imposed on
Rhodesian government after 1965, but more subtle forms of sanctions.
Zimbabwe is a prime example of the latter - when we started to really
the rules in the mid 90's we were faced with restricted access to the
s multilateral banking system. The ADB, the WB and the IMF all
suspended any activity to support what they saw as a delinquent system
fiscal and political governance.
The international community (the rich members that is) also gradually
us out of their system of recognition and support. Foreign aid declined
in many cases was simply suspended until defined problems were
This has not happened and we are now almost completely denied foreign
and assistance by richer countries and regions like the EU.
As these early sanctions took effect and did not work, the
community ratchets up the pressure. Delegations are made unwelcome at
international meetings. This can be quite subtle - no invitations to
dinners, no formal recognition and even denial of visa's and other
political sanction. We are well into this phase - our representatives
disrupted relations between the EU and the ACP States and are also
to be problematical in other forums.
Eventually the only places on earth that such rogue States find succor
those connected to the UN system and with other rogue States who share
status as a global polecat. Someone sent me the latest rankings of the
polecat States and said that he was surprised to see that we were at
15 from the bottom. I replied that it did not really matter as the muck
the bottom of this particular hole was pretty deep and we were all in
When South Africa was the "Apartheid State" and a polecat in its own
we were always glad to have access to the Beira and Maputo harbors and
the barrier provided by the Limpopo River and its crocodiles. These
protected us from the side effects of having a neighbor who was persona
grata in the global community. That position is now reversed and with a
vengeance. We do not have the economy or the regional status that South
Africa had when it was grappling with the question of its status and in
ways we are almost more isolated today, than South Africa was in those
days - sure we are still in the UN system, but only just.
But we are small - just 3 per cent of the GDP of South Africa, a real
in the regional and global picture. Does this question of our political
economic status matter? Sure it does because like it or not we sink or
together. That is exactly what President Mbeki said after the recent
summit in Gaborone. Every country in the SADC except Zimbabwe is
rapid economic and social progress, even the strife torn ones like the
Congo. We are really the rotten apple in this barrel and we are holding
the entire region and might even threaten the fragile security and
we now enjoy. Why?
Perhaps the key is in South Africa itself. There the coalition that
South Africa through the turbulent days of the post apartheid
democracy is falling apart. The State President, Thabo Mbeki who looked
good a few months ago, faces an open revolt over his decision to
his previous deputy for corruption and abuse of power. This struggle
power inside the ANC is tearing it apart and if it is not addressed and
resolved it could weaken Mr. Mbeki precisely at the time when he has to
with the rogue State on his borders in the north. Mugabe knows this and
any mischief-maker, he will exploit this conflict and thereby make
that much worse.
Capital flight from South Africa has been a problem for years;
took the form of South Africans investing abroad to spread their risks.
it took the form of trying to move resources out of what was seen as a
volatile and uncertain place and just as it is starting to turn, the
institution that was generating this newfound confidence in South
starts to fall apart. South Africa has always had a radical left and it
this element that now wishes to assert its independence and demand what
sees as its rightful place in the exercise of power in South Africa.
This is a delicate moment and it is no time for brinkmanship. The
community has a stake in southern Africa and indeed in Africa itself as
continent. South Africa is just too important an element in that
allow a minnow like Zimbabwe to exacerbate the situation and threaten
stability of South Africa. It really is time that this pipsqueak
called Zimbabwe was sorted out - and fast, so that instead of being
the problem we can help strengthen regional stability and growth.
It is not possible for the local political opposition to effect change
itself. If change is going to happen it requires a catalyst - some
inserted from the outside. Such a catalyst was agreed at the G8 summit
both China and India committed themselves to the deal. Mbeki was given
responsibility of following it through on the ground - the powers that
must revise their thinking in that respect and ask if he is any longer
position to exercise that role. Perhaps he has his hands full and it is
for someone like Nigeria to step up to the plate. I learned back in the
immediate post independence era in Zimbabwe that the super powers have
interventionist capacity. Perhaps it is time to use a little on this
of the world for the sake of the region as a whole.
Bulawayo, 7th September 2005.