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A nation humbled
May 03, 2007
foreign policy relationships will need to be addressed after Zimbabwean
President Robert Mugabe. The first concerns the West and is of prime
economic importance. The second is the burgeoning rapport between
Harare and the Chinese. The third is the delicate question of how
to manage the irrevocable influence of South Africa.
President Thabo Mbeki had placed great hopes on the region. His
hope was that five key economic players -- South Africa, Zimbabwe,
Botswana, Namibia and Zambia -- would cooperate in a rebalancing
of economic power in Southern Africa. The meltdown in Zimbabwe ruined
that dream, causing great embarrassment to the region. The New Partnership
for Africa's Development, on which Mbeki has staked much, has risked
falling into disrepute. Any new Zimbabwean government will be indebted
to South Africa.
The first consequence
is that Pretoria will attempt to set certain conditions in exchange
for its support for a post-Mugabe regime. These will be designed
to prevent a repeat of the problems experienced by its northern
neighbour. Foreign policy will also need to distinguish between
bilateral economic ties between Zimbabwe and the Chinese state and
the private Chinese business people who see opportunities in Africa.
Encouragement of the former and conditions placed on the latter
will require diplomatic skill.
There are not
many Chinese speakers in Zimbabwe, and very few places where Chinese
can be learnt. This is a problem for every African country. Sympathetic
and profitable links with China will be beneficial, but private
investors are less concerned about racial sensitivities and racial
equality. For the foreseeable future, the West is still far more
powerful than China -- militarily, economically and politically.
Mugabe’s assumption that Zimbabwe does not need the West is wrong.
court the West assiduously, and China could trade much of its expansion
into Africa for greater point of entry and cooperation with the
European Union. Zimbabwe has been in isolation for the past few
years, absorbed with its own problems. But outside perspectives
on what is right, wrong and just have changed dramatically since
Mugabe came into power in 1980.
Today we have
a host of international judicial bodies, such as the International
Criminal Court, that have introduced new ideas on what constitutes
human rights and fair and transparent governance. Much of this has
been ignored in Zimbabwe. As this new reality sinks into the minds
of Mugabe’s successors, the arrogance that has come to be associated
with the last years of Mugabe’s reign will yield to a new sense
of humility. Rebuilding links with the West will take time and patience.
protocols will have to be learned afresh. But hopes of recovery
are likely to depend on foreign aid and investment. That means more,
not less, dependence -- on South Africa, the West and China.
Chan is a professor of international relations at the University
of London and dean of law and social sciences at the School of Oriental
and African Studies. He is the author of Robert Mugabe: A Life of
Power and Violence and Grasping Africa: A Tale of Tragedy and Achievement
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