Zimbabwe is the SADC’s permanent headache

Published Jun 26, 2024


Kenneth Mokgatlhe

It’s dissapointing to see Zimbabwe, the “breadbasket of Africa”, starting a war with Zambia over nothingness. Zimbabwe should be condemned for undermining the regional institution in the form of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) or the AU and sending Africa’s dirty linen to European countries whom we often accused of interfering in our affairs in individual African countries.

The diplomatic stand-off between Zambia and Zimbabwe was started by Zimbabwe’s leader, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in what seems to be mere rumour-mongering.

There is no intelligence to suggest that Zambia has housed the US military in their country. There are various dispute mechanisms through either the SADC or the AU in which Zimbabwe could have registered their security concerns which would have been dealt with by relevant bodies. Why invite outsiders to Africa’s problems?

Zimbabwe took this matter to the US but was ignored, then they went to report it to Russia which is fighting Ukraine over accusations of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s expansion in that country.

Mnangagwa understands that the SADC and the AU have not held his authoritarian party, Zanu-PF, accountable for all the atrocities that they have been perpetuating in Zimbabwe from 1980 to date. Others would claim that the human rights violations began in the year 2000 when white farmers were violently forced out or killed in their farms by the state-sponsored programme, otherwise known to many as the Third Chimurenga.

Despite all these atrocities committed by an anti-people organisation called Zanu-PF, the SADC, and the AU kept quiet and claimed that they are supposed to respect the sovereignty of every country. It is this cosiness with these dictators in the Zanu-PF that continues to enable them to see Zimbabwe as its fiefdom and does not care that millions of their residents are crossing over crocodile-infested Limpopo river to have a better life in their neighbouring country, South Africa, where they are at times at odds with the locals over competing for scarce resources.

It is so bad that they have been accused of stealing or rigging elections and imprisoning their political opponents but African countries continue to congratulate Zanu-PF instead of cutting ties with them until they repent and change their ways.

In 2008, Zimbabwe accused Botswana of training insurgents. They claimed to have had evidence but this was never shown to the public. In their world, they believe that every country should not have a relationship with the Western powers.

In 2019, Zimbabwe accused Botswana of hosting or housing a US military base without any substance even when Botswana dismissed their allegations. They continue to spread rumour-mongering without tangible intelligence to prove their claims, to date, they have not given us a reason to believe that Botswana is housing any foreign military activities. This is a dangerous claim that other demagogues such as Fikile Mbalula and Julius Malema believed and are still believing.

It is disappointing that many countries in SADC such as Mozambique, Zambia, South Africa, Botswana are doing well in managing their economies while Zimbabwe is still trapped in the fighting mode. They have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that they are not interested in improving their domestic institutions to stop their citizens from leaving their country, instead, they want to plunge their country into a war that the SADC will not afford.

If the concern is real, why is Zanu-PF not using its proximity to South Africa to intervene on the issue between them and Lusaka?

The claims by Harare are not serious. Mnangagwa knows what he is doing, so he wants the corrupt former leader of Zambia, Edgar Lungu, to win the next elections to replace the current Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema who has grown the economy and fought corruption in the public sector.

Zimbabwe is used to not being accountable for their actions, they also attract or prefer other people who are not accountable such as Lungu. Mnangagwa is not happy that Hichilema is building a Zambia that Kaunda wanted but could not deliver. Under Hichilema, Zambia is offering free primary and secondary level education. He has helped to restore the rule of law as well as relationships with international political actors, something that Zimbabwe does not know.

The new South African administration should change its tune when dealing with Zimbabwe, it cannot be business as usual when between 4 to 7 million Zimbabweans have left their country and more than 1 million of them are in South Africa. Something has to give. South Africa will have to instil accountability in the Zimbabwean government, we have to force them to change their crooked ways.

Mokgatlhe is a political analyst.