HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsTime for serious rehab!

Time for serious rehab!


“In property, location is everything,” so say realtors.


Location determines the value of a property. A bungalow in Borrowdale has much more value than, say, a mansion built in Budiriro because Borrowdale is prime location.

But move that mansion to Borrowdale, its value would appreciate instantly; and move the bungalow to Budiriro, its value would tumble. If you were to translocate, say, Meikles Hotel to Mbare Musika, its value would depreciate and status as a five-star hotel would disappear instantly. These are the variables of location.

And so it is with geopolitics. Geopolitics is the study of the effects of geography — both human and physical — on international politics and international relations. It’s a method of foreign policy analysis which seeks to understand, explain and predict international political behaviour, primarily in terms of geographical variables.

Typical geographical variables are the physical location, size, climate, topography, demography, natural resources, and technological advances of the state being evaluated. That is the impact of geography on politics — it’s a mixture of everything, many factors are at play simultaneously.

In this study of geographic influences on power relationships in international politics, geopolitical theorists have sought to demonstrate the importance in the determination of foreign policies of considerations such as the acquisition of natural boundaries, access to important sea routes, and the control of strategically important land areas.

Nazi Germany’s geopolitical doctrine held that the geographic, economic and political needs of Germany justified its invasion and seizure of other lands.

Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be a latter-day believer in that doctrine as seen in his barely concealed proxy invasion of Ukraine.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein pulled out this geopolitical trick by invading neighbouring oil-rich Kuwait on the basis that it was actually the 19th province of Iraq whereas the reasons were mostly economic, including Iraq’s inability to pay more than $8 billion that had been borrowed to finance the Iran-Iraq War and Kuwaiti overproduction of petroleum which kept revenues down for Iraq.

Tiny rebel Rhodesia survived for 15 years — from 1965 to 1980 — because of geopolitics. Regionally, apartheid South Africa and colonial Portugal stood by the regime.

But the geopolitical matrix changed in 1974 after a leftist military coup in Portugal ushered in democratisation which cascaded to Portuguese colonies in Africa such as Angola and Mozambique, leading to their independence in 1975. Mozambique was now in a position to provide bases to Zanla fighters and, in response, Zanla recruits poured across the border in their thousands, overwhelming training camps.

At the same time, Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo were beneficiaries of Cold War geopolitics. The communist East automatically backed them against the capitalist West while the West supported Ian Smith as a bulwark against the East.

It can be postulated that without the Cold War, it would have taken much longer for African States to gain independence. The usage of “Comrade So-and-So”, even though they have completely abandoned any Marxist-Leninist-Maoist pretensions, was borrowed from their erstwhile Communist benefactors.

The Lesotho military coup last week fizzled out no sooner than it had started because of geopolitics. Small, resource-poor and completely encircled by South Africa, the tiny kingdom had no way of disregarding its towering neighbour — in the same way that tiny Kuwait, wedged between Iraq and the sea, had no chance to resist Iraq in 1990.

But, Lesotho, being completely surrounded by a gentle giant — South Africa — is, as it were, at the mercy of democracy, not, like Kuwait, at the mercy of dictatorship. Geopolitics has, thus, worked in the favour of the citizens of Lesotho as eventually happened in Kuwait when the country was freed from Saddam by United States-led forces in the Gulf War of 1991 no less due to the geopolitical factor of the natural resource of oil found in abundance in the Middle East.

North of the Limpopo, Zimbabwe got away with a virtual coup in the 2008 election fiasco because of geopolitics (the location factor, among others). For one, South Africa could not strangulate Zimbabwe because, unlike Lesotho, it does not completely surround it.

So, there is little muscle or leverage it can apply.

But, of course, Lesotho Prime Minister Tom Thabane was not an entirely innocent victim. Some say he had it coming because of his dictatorial ways when — as if he had taken vacation from sense — he ruled by decree after suspending Parliament.

Sadc tried to talk him out of losing more — and he has apparently heeded. Rather than losing more than you already have, you should recognise that the situation, whatever it may be, is not worth it and you should simply stop before it gets worse.

Sometimes, the best way to win is to cut your losses. To continue doing what you are doing will likely entail more losses — including your entire legacy.

In Zimbabwe, wages are dropping and jobs are disappearing, all this while the ruling class is embroiled in naked, ugly, selfish fights for succession. The economy — battered by high-level corruption — is in a deflationary spiral, with hardly a pulse, virtually dead, except for the well-connected who are making a killing out of this misery.

If there is anyone who needs to cut their losses, it’s the ruling class in Zimbabwe who have become a tragic caricature of what they professed to stand for.
Time for serious rehabilitation!

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