Moz worse than Zim?
30 September 2020
The biggest failure of foreign policy under the ANC government has been the disastrous handling of the Zimbabwe situation.
When I was appointed as ambassador to Thailand by President Mbeki in 2007, one of the more difficult questions thrown at me was "how can you serve as an ambassador when the country's policy about Zimbabwe is such a mess?"
I answered rather flippantly that it was fortunate that I had not been appointed as our ambassador to Zimbabwe since I was the only South African ambassador who was (and to the best of my knowledge, still is) prohibited from visiting that country. I said I was rather proud of that fact.
Our policy under President Mbeki was a failure then, it had been that for a decade, and 13 years later it is still a mess.
The reason? A misguided and quite pathetic feeling in ANC government circles that they have a sisterly relationship with Zanu-PF, the ruling party in that country for forty years.
On the altar of that friendship, our closest neighbour is a failed state, unable to even feed most of its population (or at least those who have not fled the Mugabe and Mnangagwa regimes and come here legally or illegally.
By exerting its power through sanctions and moral persuasion, South Africa could have brought about democratic change in Zimbabwe. We chose instead to mollycoddle the tyrant Mugabe, letting him steal elections plus the treasure of his people. We continue doing the same today. On the altar of 'sisterly solidarity,' we have allowed a wonderful people to be robbed, raped politically, starved, beaten into submission, forced to leave or tolerate the destruction of their future. There are no signs of the Ramaphosa government taking meaningful action.
What of Mozambique? We now have ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) occupying portions of northern Mozambique, while South Africa (as well as SADC, the Commonwealth, the AU, the UN) do nothing about it.
Wikipedia says ISIS is a militant group and an unrecognised proto-state that follows a fundamentalist, Salafi jihadist doctrine of Sunni Islam. They have occupied large parts of Mozambique, have simply swept local inhabitants off a number of islands, destroyed hotels and homes used for tourists, and insisted that Sharia Law must apply.
Mozambique is in deadly danger of unravelling as a country and its government seems powerless to act. It is right next door to us and being taken over by extreme religious fanatics who will undoubtedly impact on South African security, our trade and tourist interests and on a number of countries in southern Africa. It must be in our interests to act, initially by marshalling international pressure, sanctions and finally, regional and if needs be, by our security forces to prevent a takeover by ISIS of a friendly neighbouring country. Mozambique cannot do it alone. We must help.
One shudders to think of a second neighbouring failed state and the million or more Mozambiquans streaming in illegally to compete with the Zimbabweans already here and those arriving, looking for work, housing, food, medical care and education for their children.
If we do nothing, Mozambique could be a far worse problem than Zimbabwe. If we do not realise the possibility of xenophobic attacks on all these strangers competing with our own increasingly poverty-stricken population in an economy ruined by a generation of failed ANC economic policy, then we are blind.
Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand. His website is douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com