Guest column: Takura Zhangazha
Last week, there were two very important statements issued on Zimbabwe by two very important inter-State political bodies. The first of these statements and closer to home was issued by the Southern African Development Community(Sadc) chairperson, Namibia President Hage Geinjob.
In the statement, Geinjob condemned recent political violence in Zimbabwe without putting the blame on government or the opposition. But more significantly, he called for the removal of sanctions on Zimbabwe, wherein he said (to quote him at length): “The Sadc Heads and State and government further noted that the governments efforts to transform the economy and bring about prosperity to the people of Zimbabwe are negatively affected by the illegal sanctions that were imposed on the country since early 2000.
Sadc expresses its solidarity with the government and people of the Republic of Zimbabwe and calls upon the international community to unconditionally lift all sanctions imposed on the country.”
It was a statement that got an angry reaction from Zimbabwe’s opposition and some civil society organisations and activists. With some unfortunately referring to the Sadc acronym as standing for a “Southern African Dictators Club”.
Not more than a week later the European Parliament (EP) made public its resolutions and recommendations to its executive arm, the European Commission (EC) on Zimbabwe.
In it the EP condemned political violence, the Internet shutdown and to quote it at length: “Reminds the government of Zimbabwe that the support of the European Union and its member States in the context of the Cotonou Agreement and for trade, development and economic assistance, is conditional on its respecting the rule of law and the international convention and treaties to which it is party: Recalls that long-term support hinges on comprehensive reforms rather than mere promises; calls for European engagement with Zimbabwe to be value-driven and firm in its positioning towards the Zimbabwean authorities.”
As indicated in the firm language used in the resolutions, the Zimbabwean government’s attempts at re-engagement for reprieve with the EU has suffered a severe setback. And the reaction from pro-ruling Zanu PF party activists has been to quite literally blame the opposition for this firm stance by the EP.
Both the State-controlled and private mainstream media in what is now their expected partisan political output also reflected the views of their editorial and political preferences.
But as always critical context matters. That the positions of Sadc and the EP differ is very clear. The motives for the same are however not so apparent.
Sadc’s position appears to be predicated on a Pan-Africanism that is wary of interference in the domestic affairs of a member State. Not only by itself, but also more significantly by international organisations that it has historically been suspicious of their intentions. I mention history here because Sadc is not just a latter day “treaty organisation”. It is a relatively historically organic one.
Largely etched from the anti-colonial and liberation struggle focused Frontline States (FLS) (initially comprised of Zambia, Tanzania and Botswana. Mozambique and Angola joined the group upon their attainment of independence to be followed by Zimbabwe in 1980).
The FLS were to then establish the Southern African Development Co-ordinating Conference, which also then spawned the now existent Sadc.
In light of this, whichever way one looks at it, the contemporary Sadc and a majority of its member States are strongly informed by an anti-imperialist/colonialism ethos.
A lot of us may consider the latter to be outdated and an excuse for protecting “dictators”, but regardless it remains an historical reality that cannot be wished away.
It is a reality that makes Sadc one of the strongest regional political blocs in the world– minus the firepower of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato).
The EU’s position is, however, predicated on an understanding of global universalism, as well as the strength of its placement in global politics and the attendant economics/neoliberalism.
And the historicity of it is again largely based on the fact that it is a union comprised of former colonial hegemons in Africa with vested interests beyond the political. It is an historical fact that we cannot run away from even if we wanted to.
Where we juxtapose these two positions from the EU and Sadc, we would do well to keep in mind how the two bodies potentially view each other. Not that there was antipathy toward the global interaction and agreements on universal human values, but more because of the specificities of regional histories and contexts. Particularly, in the case of southern Africa.
It is, therefore, imperative that lobby and advocacy activities on Zimbabwe always keeps this in mind.
As it did, for example, in 2007 when Sadc intervened directly in Zimbabwe under the chairpersonship of then Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete who then appointed then South Africa President Thabo Mbeki as the mediator on the Zimbabwean question(s).
The inclusive government that stemmed therefrom should have moved the country forward, but it didn’t. Not least because of continued disputations over the land question that it failed to resolve. And that the current Zimbabwean government considers to be final.
What then becomes interesting is the possibility that there is an evident desire on the part of Sadc and the EU to move away from the past.
In respect of the former, it is to take Zimbabwe to a post-former President Robert Mugabe era while not negating or directly appearing to be compromising on issues to do with sovereignty and of course, land.
The latter, however, may have queries with the current government as to its failure to move away from Mugabe era not only in respect to human rights but also and probably more importantly to property (land) rights.
In both however, if we look closely, we see an attempt to move on or move back.
In any case, as has been now proven, history does not end.
Takura Zhangazha writes in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)