Zim’s international re-engagement:The long haul to recovery


The economy
Although Zimbabwe faces an economic crisis and is in some ways an “emergency economy”, the picture is not one of total disaster.

Knox Chitiyo, Steve Kibble

There are numerous institutions, organisations and businesses that are functioning and doing so through smart strategies, competent management, good leadership and partnerships.

For Zimbabwe’s economy to survive and thrive, the government will have to adopt the “best practice” template in a national consultative, multiple stakeholder approach.

Zimbabwe’s re-entry into the global system brings with it the challenge and opportunity of engaging potential investors in terms not of ideological divisions, but of competitive advantage. If it is to attract investment, it must demonstrate that it is a worthwhile business destination and partner in a global economy crowded with competitor nations.

This includes clarifying indigenisation provisions for business and supporting a land audit.

A Zimbabwe Economic Task Force (ZETF) needs to be established to bring together political, business and other stakeholders in a forum to advise on and assist in lifting the country out of its economic crisis.

The government has outlined its economic vision in the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset), which was produced in consultation with the business sector and outlines key sectors for rejuvenation. There should be a complementary document outlining the key immediate challenges to implementing this vision and a roadmap showing how the government proposes to address this over the next 12 to 18 months.

Acting regionally
Zimbabwe cannot be examined in isolation from its regional context. There is a growing underclass in southern Africa and, if the crisis of poverty is not speedily addressed, this could increase political instability.

Zimbabwe and  neighbouring countries are advocating a regional “renaissance” and promoting the “region brand”. But to ensure that these are not just rhetorical aspirations, southern African governments should pay as much attention to human development issues as they do to gross domestic product figures and focus on regional pro-poor policies.

International engagement
With the economic stakes so high, and with growing economic interdependence, constructive engagement between Zimbabwe and the West should entail a process to end all sanctions and targeted measures, as well as a pragmatic dialogue that recognises mutual interests and responsibilities.

The process of suspending sanctions is well under way, with only those on President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace, and on imports and exports of defence equipment, remaining in place. Provided there is no deterioration in the governance and human rights situation, the European Union should let the suspended appropriate measures under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement fully expire on November 1 2014.

This should be followed in February 2015 by further suspension or even the lifting of all non-defence-related EU sanctions if there has been no serious deterioration in the governance and human rights situation.

Western policy should move away from singling out Zimbabwe and become more regionally focused, consistently supporting sustainable economic growth and transformation, grounded in good governance and human rights.

Zimbabwe’s government should seek to re-engage in international diplomatic and business forums, including seeking to rejoin the Commonwealth.

Although Zimbabwe’s “Look East” policy and South-South partnerships will continue apace, the government should also set out in detail how it plans to re-engage the West. The Foreign ministry’s 2013–15 Strategic Plan could be supplemented by a White Paper outlining the changing context of regional, continental and global relations.

The UK and Zimbabwe governments should establish a Zimbabwe–United Kingdom Bilateral Forum to discuss matters of mutual concern.

Opposition and civil society
The post-Government of National Unity political landscape has changed, and Zimbabwe’s opposition and civil society will have to undergo a period of reform and renewal to remain effective influences. The opposition and the government should work towards consensual or bipartisan politics, particularly in responding to the various economic challenges the country faces. The government on its own cannot reinvigorate the economy.

This will require a truly national effort that — even if only temporarily – brings together political, economic and social stakeholders in a collective effort to address the economic crisis.

Otherwise, all parties will lose credibility.

Electoral reform
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should ensure there is a credible and transparent electoral roll as recommended by Sadc, the African Union and other local and foreign bodies (including the commission itself) during the 2013 election. These issues should be addressed ahead of the next general elections, scheduled for 2018.

Good governance and human rights
There needs to be a wider debate on questions of citizenship, identity and the role of civil society, as well as the role and effectiveness of the various commissions established under the new Constitution.

Combating poverty, especially among women, and encouraging education for girls should become a national priority.

Zimbabwe’s Parliamentary committees are important forums for oversight and accountability. The government needs to provide adequate funding to ensure the Civil Service Commission, the Defence Forces Commission, the Prisons and Correctional Service Commission and the Judicial Service Commission can fulfil their mandates, including by holding government agencies to account.

Corruption remains a major economic challenge and a major disincentive to local and foreign institutional investment. The currently moribund Anti-Corruption Commission needs to be reactivated and given a proper mandate, independence and powers to investigate, report on and end the culture of financial impunity. This in turn requires political will and support at the highest level.

Diaspora engagement
The Zimbabwean Diaspora has an important part to play in the country’s recovery as well as in its own success abroad. The Diaspora in the United Kingdom will need to manage its internal differences and craft a collective vision if it is to be seen in Harare as a serious partner in Zimbabwe’s development, and in London as a partner in UK policymaking on the country and the region.

A dedicated ministry for the Diaspora should be established in Zimbabwe to address issues such as investment, remittances, the Diaspora vote, Diaspora return, the economy and wider Diaspora–Zimbabwe partnerships. This would give more impetus to the current re-engagement drive between Zimbabwe and  the Diaspora.

Chatham House is the home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs


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  2. An otherwise good article except for the played out song on sanctions. Even those that used to sing it very often have moved on and realised that only a change in policies is the way to go.

  3. While the article makes a lot of sense,it remains wishful thinking as there is just no political will to move forward until everything has been looted. Nobody cares as we resoundingly won the just ended July 31 election.

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