ANC govt has no Zimbabwe policy - Wilmot James

DA MP compares SA's approach unfavourably to that of the US

Today, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs heard further testimony on possible strategic responses to the political and economic challenges in Zimbabwe. This testimony forms part of ongoing efforts in the Obama administration to build a cohesive strategic approach to Zimbabwe, which appropriately balances the need to support the fragile coalition government with the need to reprimand undemocratic influences.

The questions is: why doesn't South Africa have a cohesive policy framework on Zimbabwe? Why is each diplomatic action with Zimbabwe incremental, rather than forming part of a larger strategic, diplomatic effort? And why is South Africa's Parliament not actively debating what this strategy should be?

Indeed, the attitude of the US Senate stands in stark contrast to the South African government, which has no formal policy on Zimbabwe and hides behind the mask of silent diplomacy. Behind all the talk, there is no substance and that is to Zimbabwe's detriment and to the detriment of the South Africa's international standing.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has already called for a parliamentary debate on Zimbabwe. Our request sits on the Order Paper, but is yet to be granted.

The problem is that, without targeting objectives and building a strategy to achieve those objectives, our diplomatic efforts in Zimbabwe will continue to be indecisive and ineffective. For instance, months ago I wrote to the President in my capacity as a representative on the SADC Parliamentary Forum, urging him to ensure that the ruling of a SADC tribunal on the return of seized farms be respected by the Zimbabwean administration. The President made no such interventions and the main respondent's farm was subsequently burned to the ground.

What is the point of a diplomatic effort if it so lacking in coherence and direction that it cannot even induce a bare minimum respect for crucial regional resolutions?

South Africa does not have a credible foreign policy on Zimbabwe because:

  • We have not consistently applied diplomatic pressure on Zanu-PF to live up to the Global Political Agreement (GPA);
  • We have not applied quiet but firm pressure via intelligence and defence on those around Mugabe to exit and not be spoilers;
  • We have not invested in the unity government to get basic services restarted - without which the whole GPA deal is dead; and
  • We have not provided real assistance in helping the Government of Zimbabwe to normalise relations with the rest of the world, especially the IMF and World Bank.

The Democratic Alliance asks whether we really support the GPA and see that as the way forward, or do we provide a cover to keep Zanu-PF in place and weaken the MDC until internal succession can be arranged? All this confirms the importance of having a parliamentary debate on Zimbabwe.

Notably, in today's session in the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, South Africa came in for strong criticism for its wayward strategy on Zimbabwe. Todd J. Moss, a senior research fellow at the Center for Global Development, labelled South Africa's contribution to enforcing the coalition and providing adequate support as "not...sufficient to the task".

The DA would like to call once again for the formulation, in Parliament, of a coherent strategic framework for Zimbabwe, beginning with a debate on the floor of the National Assembly.

It is only by taking this action - shifting away from ad hoc diplomatic engagement, and towards a diplomatic model premised on the identification of, and engagement on, key priorities and objectives, that we can achieve a working democracy in Zimbabwe, based on human rights and the rule of law.

Statement issued by Wilmot James, MP, Democratic Alliance representative on the SADC parliamentary forum, September 30 2009

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter