By Sinikiwe Marodza in Harare and Colleta Dewa in Johannesburg
Zimbabwe’s move to forge diplomatic and economic relations with fellow SADC countries is a great move that will play a big role in transforming the country into a medium income economy by 2030 as envisioned by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, top industrialist, businessman and economic analyst, Joe Mutizwa, has said.
His comments come in the wake of Zimbabwe’s efforts to enhance economic emancipation by pursuing diplomatic and economic agreements with other SADC countries.
Zimbabwe recently convened Bi-National Commission meetings with its neighbours Botswana and South Africa respectively as part of its mission to mend and develop its economy with assistance from fellow SADC member states.
Barely a year after coming into power, President Mnangagwa has managed to repair relations with Botswana, which soured during the reign of former President Robert Mugabe, and is enhancing ties with other countries in the SADC bloc.
Zimbabwe and Zambia signed four Memorandums of Understanding in 2018 which will see the two countries establishing a one stop border post at the Victoria Falls-Livingstone border post, promoting cultural exchange, co-operate in the management of Zimbabwe’s liberation war grave sites and cooperating in women empowerment through sharing ideas.
During the BNC with Botswana early this month, the two countries cemented their relations by signing six MoUs that will establish trade and add at least five value chains, among other things.
This week, Zimbabwe and South Africa signed 45 MoUs that will help both countries in different economic aspects.
Mutizwa, a former chief executive of one of Zimbabwe's largest congomerates, Delta Holdings, applauded President Mnangagwa for embarking on such an initiative, pointing out that the initiative was a great step towards re-building the country’s economy.
“Co-operation and working closely with other SADC countries is a positive development that will contribute much in terms of forging a robust economic front in Zimbabwe.
“This is the way to go, I feel that Zimbabwe needs to strengthen its relations with neighbours now, more than any other time in the past because we are under an onslaught from other quarters.
“The 1 billion pula credit facility that was pledged by Botswana during the Zim-Botswana BNC opens avenues for Zimbabwean industry to grow its operations,” Mutizwa said.
He added that a continuity in strengthening Zimbabwe’s relations with other countries from within the region would definitely boost trade across borders.
“The recent Zimbabwe-South Africa BNC is another positive step in lifting Zimbabwe’s diplomatic endeavours.
“Considering the issue of the western imposed economic sanctions that have weakened our economy in the past two decades, it is very important for Zimbabwe to keep on strengthening relations with countries from within the region so as to pave way for free trade, strengthen our mining sector, agriculture and many other aspects that contribute towards economic development,” he added.
Mutizwa, however, added that the MoUs and bi-national agreements must be put to action for the Zimbabwean Government to yield the expected result.
“There is serious need and efforts in making sure that these agreements will not just end on paper, but implemented for the results to be yielded.
“Without implementation there is no result and the future of Zimbabwe’s economy will remain bleak,” he said.
Meanwhile, political analysts in South Africa have come out guns blazing over comments by the country’s major opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), over President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to Zimbabwe.
The DA’s shadow minister of international relations and co-operation, Sandy Kalyan, on Tuesday criticised President Ramaphosa's trip to Zimbabwe, accusing him of “aligning with despots” while also making reference to the ANC’s support for the Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.
Most political analysts who spoke to The Southern Times, however, dismissed Kalyan’s words as retrogressive and anti-African.
“Africa deserves better when it comes to issues of these opposition parties. We can not afford to entertain such kind of hatred and anti-unity at a time when Africa needs each other to resolve our challenges. I sometimes wonder whose agenda these political parties are pushing. We believe in African solutions to African problems so if South Africa is the solution to our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe’s problems, then hail Cyril hail,” said Dr Zikona Moyo, a lecturer at the University of Johanesburg.
Dr Moyo added that the challenges in Zimbabwe were not only a Zimbabwean problem but South Africa was also feeling the effects.
“Solving the problems in Zimbabwe is the most notable thing that Ramaphosa can ever do. Just take a look at the way many Zimbabweans have migrated down south in search of greener pastures. This has impacted on the resources of South Africa so it can only be a sound mind that sees the move to try and stabilise the economy of Zimbabwe as the best way to go. Zimbabwe has got much potential and all it needs now is support from fellow Africans,” he added.
In attacking Ramaphosa, the DA said: “We cannot afford to compound our own problems by draining the fiscus. Economic prosperity in Zimbabwe depends on a solid foundation of good governance in the country. We must support efforts to strengthen democracy in that country.”
The statement was, however, dismissed by political analyst Professor Noble Mudo who laughed it off saying issues of democracy were debatable.
“Neither the DA nor any other political movement in Africa should discuss issues of democracy by judging others. I believe Zimbabwe held elections and the people made their choice therefore what is needed now is a way forward, not blame game. It would have been reasonable of Britain and other Western countries if sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe were removed for the sake of the poor majority. The sanctions are the major stumbling block and threat to the democracy and success of Zimbabwe. In my view, the president did well by going to Zimbabwe,” he said.
Earlier this year, one of the most influential opposition leaders in South Africa, Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters, said it was the responsibility of SADC to help Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwe must be helped. SADC countries must give a conditional grant dedicated to developmental programmes. A weaker Zimbabwe leads to a weaker SADC. The little we have as Africans, we need to share. Otherwise we are setting Zimbabwe up for IMF. We are Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans are us. Their problem is our problem.
“South Africa must contribute towards the bailout of Zimbabwe because if you don’t help Zimbabweans the border is going to be flooded by them and anyone who is going to block them from coming in we are going to fight with that person, ” said Malema during a media briefing.