Zimbabwe needs a ‘smart foreign policy’

THE EU-Africa summit took place from April 2-3, 2014 in Brussels, Belgium, and Zimbabwe was not represented at that high profile and high level political interface between Africa and Europe. Zimbabwe decided to boycott this very important conference for the childish reason that the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, had been denied a visa to accompany her husband on the historic visit to Brussels.
This is how pathetic and indeed, tragic, our foreign policy is now being played out. Our foreign policy department is being run by dull political clowns and visionless bureaucrats who don’t seem to appreciate the salient fact that it is Zimbabwe that needs the world rather than the world that needs Zimbabwe. So much for appointing recycled political failures to otherwise very important and crucial ministerial portfolios! Little wonder, therefore, that my good brother and seasoned diplomat, Chris Mutsvangwa, blew his top the other day and called a spade a spade! 
Who needs to create more enemies in these trying times in Zimbabwe? Who needs to be isolated and marooned on an island of hunger and deprivation when your neighbours are busy partying and enjoying themselves? Is there any wisdom in burying one’s head in the sand and pretending that you are invincible when the tell-tale signs of an impending Armageddon are there for all right-thinking people to see? Zimbabwe should wake up and smell the coffee. Whether we like it or not, this world is fast globalising. It is getting smaller and smaller. We need more friends than enemies.
In fact, we are now a David in a sub-region of fast emerging Goliaths.  Our chances of successfully playing the Biblical David trick on the emerging Goliaths of our sub-region are fast dwindling. We have to re-focus and re-strategize. SADC as a region has a combined population of around 250 million people. All the fifteen (15) SADC countries are basically competing for the same markets. In similar fashion, foreign investors are increasingly looking at SADC as a geo-political sub-region. They are no longer focusing on individual countries, per se. Zimbabwe is now effectively a basket case, thanks for a twisted and misguided foreign policy that doesn’t seem to appreciate that all countries in the region are basically competing to secure investment from the same quarters. If we are to regain our long lost status as the regional bread basket, we certainly have a lot of homework to do. It cannot continue to be business as usual.Advertisement

Zimbabwe would be foolish to concentrate on the so-called “Look East” policy and neglecting to focus on the whole wide world as a single entity. We have to look east, west, north and south. In fact, we have to look everywhere all the time. We should appreciate the fact that money has no colour. As such, it would be foolhardy for us to continue playing foolish international relations where we persistently and unwisely continue to publicly denounce and trash the West when, actually, the East is increasingly looking West. China is a country that is very good at playing smart politics.
The Chinese are capitalists. Yes; they are! This is why you will hardly hear of China needlessly trashing the United States for some perceived ideological differences. China is now a global factory. Chinese-made goods find a ready market in the United States and in most of these western countries. In return, most transnational companies have now relocated their manufacturing plants to China. If you travel to most, if not all Chinese major cities such as Beijing, Guanzhou and Shanghai today, you will see that there is Walmart, Walgreens, McDonald ‘s and all these other major western corporates fully established there! This clearly shows that the Chinese are doing business with America and the western world in general. Surely, money has got absolutely no colour.
The gist of this opinion piece is to lay the foundation for the urgent need for Zimbabwe to start playing smart politics as well as smart international relations. We will not benefit anything tangible for our suffering people by repeatedly chanting down Britain and her allies. We should not create enemies unnecessarily. Zimbabwe has to nurture a conducive and attractive business environment that would attract foreign direct investment and, in the process, grow our gross domestic product. It is a fact that more than 80% of Zimbabweans are living in abject poverty; essentially meaning that they are subsisting on less than US$2 per day. Our unemployment rate is in excess of 75%.
The majority of our people are now surviving in the informal sector. These statistics do not make good reading. We have to grow our economy in a sustainable and holistic way. This is not to suggest that Zimbabwe should just become an extension of the major economies of this world that are arguably being run by the United States and China. We should develop economic policies that are attractive to foreign investment without necessarily compromising our sovereignty and independence. Put simply, we should be smart entrepreneurs who are always moving with the times and who appreciate that in this tough world, there is absolutely no free lunch!
Zimbabwe should thus take immediate steps to be re-admitted to the Commonwealth. We should ask ourselves why countries such as Mozambique and Cameroon, which are not former British colonies, are now very enthusiastic members of the Commonwealth. Why should we continue to behave like the North Korea of Africa? What do we gain from operating as a rogue state? Do our people benefit anything from this archaic and irritating politics that we continue to play? Until such a time that Zimbabwe is fully re-integrated into the international community of nations, we shall continue to wallow in deepening poverty and socio-economic deprivation. We should take Zimbabwe back to the world and in turn, the world will come to Zimbabwe! That way, it would be a win-win scenario.
Written by Obert Gutu. Gutu is a corporate lawyer and politician based in Harare, Zimbabwe.