Eight Years of Tension, Misperception and Dependence
from April 1994 to December 2002
Martin R. Rupiya*
During the short eight years since South Africa (SA) gained her majority independence in April 1994, Zimbabwe has experienced near seismic changes in her relations with her neighbour. Sadly, the changes appear to be all adverse as we write. This debilitating impact, of the policies adopted during this period, is graphically reflected in the political, security, economic and social spheres. In assessing Zimbabwe's foreign policy (ies) towards SA, it is important that we also cast a glance at her regional stance within SADC and other fora. Through this secondary prism, it is possible to discern the sort of positions adopted in order to positively influence given individual national interests.
At the political level, Zimbabwe is grappling with a debilitating domestic
and international political hiatus and has moved from being 'my brother's
keeper' to SA before 1994 to becoming reliant on the latter. SA intervention
within the Commonwealth,(1) in Africa and internationally has provided
the most important conduit through which Zimbabwe has been able to engage
these partners over the last year or so.
In the economic and social areas, Zimbabwe has moved from being the second most important trading partner with SA,(2) to what can only be described as a dependent state.(3) Its currency has become almost worthless(4) while the economy, based on an agricultural, has stagnated and begun to regress rapidly. This development has been as a result of launching an almost secretive land reform policy that caught the locals, regional players and the rest of the world by surprise. SA was forced to embark on a 'quiet diplomacy route' with its neighbour in order to better understand the policy motivation as well as pre-empt the inevitable outflow of refugees from Zimbabwe across her own borders. In embarking upon this containment strategy, other factors such as drought and famine as well as acute shortages of foreign exchange have forced SA to underwrite loans and provide credit in a situation where the International Financial institutions, donors and investment have withdrawn from the country.(5) The impact of the ongoing land reform, associated with politically motivated violence has also been exacerbated by the massive emigration of professional and skilled staff as well as investors.(6) Meanwhile, wider SADC regional economic integration since 1994, in favour of SA, has proceeded more by default rather than commission in a trend in which Zimbabwe appears to have adopted policies that have culminated in her increased isolation.(7) All neighbouring states with SA have virtually become members of the Pretoria dominated Customs Union, expect Zimbabwe. Not surprisingly, this has further isolated and marginalized its economy.(8)
Finally, Zimbabwe's defence and security policy (ies) over the last eight years appear set to challenge the inherent hegemony of SA against a background of historical collaboration between the two states. During the colonial era, there was a close security policy arrangement between Pretoria and the white Rhodesia. Soon after the April 1994 elections, armed forces from both sides resumed interchanges at both bilateral and regional levels. Since late 1998 however, the Zimbabwean military have had sanctions slapped against them by the UK, most European Union members and the United States. There is therefore, a greater need now for increased bilateral relations in this area in order to overcome the sanctions imposed above.
At the regional security level, policies adopted after 1994 and SA's response, have also been partly to blame in, towards stifling efforts aimed at transforming regional security arrangements from the old Front Line States (FLS) arrangements to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics, Defence and Security. While Zimbabwe motivated for and is part of the Defence Pact arrangement with Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Namibia, SA has studiously avoided acceding to this body. Instead, important peace peace-treaties involving members of this pact have, individually, moved towards finding an accommodation with Pretoria. The biggest example has been the unravelling of the Lusaka Ceasefire and Peace Agreement signed in July 1999 that has, for all intents and purposes now been replaced by the recent Pretoria Agreement.(9) The DRC, Burundi and Rwanda, all important players in the Central African Great Lakes conflict, have all deferred to the intervention by Pretoria in a move that has received widespread and significant international community support. In 2000, in a speech reflecting how Zimbabwe's political leadership sought to pre-empt this trend, President Robert Mugabe, while addressing the 5th National Congress of the Tanzanian Chama Cha Mapinduzi held in Dodoma, took a swipe against, "those states seeking political superiority or greater sovereignty - undermining regional defence and security" in what was perceived as 'a veiled swipe at SA.'(10) This early reflection of tension in this area between the two states occurred barely two years into SA independence and only a year after the Windhoek initiative seeking to bring about the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security entity.(11) However, even as this Dodoma incident was being played out, no lesser person than President Mbeki has confirmed that the late Tanzanian President, Julius Nyerere was at this time exhorting SA to play an even more prominent role in African affairs.(12) This perception and misperception within Zimbabwe's political elite, of SA perceived role in Africa's international relations, lies at the bottom of policy conundrum between Zimbabwe and SA. Put differently, perhaps for posterity's sake, we need to pin down some of the broad policy and strategic positions in the domestic and foreign policy formulation, conduct and practices that explain the almost total reversal of positions between the two states of Zimbabwe and South Africa since 1994? Part of the expectation would be to inform policy makers and practitioners of both countries in future, if not at present.
The main source influencing policy either in Pretoria or Harare during the short eight years that will be broken down into three epochs appear different. The three eras begin with the first period, covering background to the April 1994 Elections. This laid the foundations that were later to guide the different dimensions that were to be managed by the African majority regimes. The important sectors include the political, security, economic and social. The discussion also focuses on the structure of government and priorities adopted. In the case of SA, the focus of the tripartite Government of National Unity comprising the outgoing Afrikaner National Party (NP),(13) the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) led by the African National Congress (ANC) was on providing domestic stability. Because the first majority rule government had emerged from negotiations under the Conference on Democracy in South Africa (CODESA), its policies were arrived at after much consultation and horse-trading. Its priority was to create conditions of reconciliation, lower the intensity of conflict and encourage the creation of a rainbow nation as this was a precondition for establishing such a society. Furthermore, the ruling ANC also had not garnered a two-thirds majority in parliament making it imperative that it adopted the minimalist approach in order to govern effectively. This approach soon became the norm under the new democratic constitution. In an extraordinary gesture, Mandela also indicated that he would relinquish power after only a single term in office. Again this precipitated internal party political jockeying within the ANC, a trend that continued even after it won a second mandate in 1998. After Mandela left office, government in SA still continued to be a Coalition arrangement with the IFP. This second epoch also conditioned the policies adopted at the domestic level with foreign policy implications. Finally, the third epoch is from mid-1999 to the present. Within SA political policy circles, this involved the flexing of muscles by some organizations of the tripartite arrangement that constitute the ANC. These are the SA Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU).(14) The sort of power balancing act and horse trading that has to be entered into within the alliance is unique in the political history of Africa and appears not to have been fully appreciated by neighbouring states.
Meanwhile, throughout the South African stated epochs since 1994, Zimbabwe's state policy position was predicted on a single party and leader, the Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front) and President Robert Mugabe. An initial attempt at cobbling together a Coalition Government with the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) led by the late Dr Joshua Nkomo in 1980 had ceased to exist, effectively by November of the same year.(15) Consequently, state policy has remained the preserve of a single cradle. The sources of policy influence are important in a discussion of this nature as this reveals the sort of concessions and shifts that manifest themselves in the implementation stages.
This paper argues that Zimbabwe's policy stance towards SA since April 1994 has been characterised with tensions, misperception and unilateralism. Not surprisingly, this has culminated in dependence, forcing SA to adopt a containment strategy in political, security, economic and social spheres. Beginning with the period before the elections of 1994 in SA, Zimbabwe's policies appeared not to have necessarily taken into account the objective conditions within the country itself in its relations with its giant neighbour. The period also reflects decisions that have consistently failed to anticipate and reinvigorate the inherent synergies between the states. Finally, since early 2000, policies and actions adopted have occurred without bilateral consultation nor expectation of convergence. The explanation of this phenomenon appears to lie in the dominance of the single party and leader phenomenon, ranged against a neighbour whose policies are steeped in complex, flexible, democratic and capitalist environment.
Background to 1994.
The land between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers, a fifth province of SA?
In all aspects except political control, the land between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers - constituting Rhodesia and present day Zimbabwe was a fifth province of the Union of South Africa. Strong social, cultural, sporting, economic, infrastructure and to a lesser extent political links were established under one hundred years of white colonial rule from 1890 until 1980. A former Premier of the Cape Province and businessman, Cecil John Rhodes and his British South Africa Company (B.S.A.Co) occupied this area under the auspices of a Royal Charter from Britain. The B.S.A.Co proceeded to introduce white settlers, a cash economy, mining ventures and commercial farming enterprises until its mandate expired in 1922 when the white-settler Responsible Government took over.(16) The Co. armed with the Royal Charter provided the cover for realising profits not only for itself but also enabling primitive capital accumulation to take place amongst the white-settler community.
At least three elements were relied upon to effect the above. This was in the form of theft of cattle looted after raids on the Shona and Ndebele communities by white brigands using modern weapons and techniques. These were easily disposed of after a short march on the thriving Rand and Transvaal meat market surrounding the bourgeoning mines. Secondly, the B.S.A.Co. provided officials responsible for rounding up African labour that was then made available to the white mine owners and farmers as well as engaging in public works programme for little or no pay. Finally, when the Second Rand(17) failed to materialise, the B.S.A.Co. turned towards evicting indigenous peoples from fertile lands and passing this on to white farmers and enterprises completing the circle of deprivation for the local inhabitants. Furthermore, even after the mandate of the Royal Charter had expired in 1922, the B.S.A.Co continued to influence the policies of the Responsible Government facilitating the spreading of colonial tentacles to embrace Northern Rhodesia - now Zambia and Nyasaland, now Malawi. Between 1953 until 1963, white political control was formalised under the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The land, minerals,(18) livestock and labour surpluses of the three countries continued to be exploited by the then Union of South Africa through Salisbury reflecting the traditional metro-pole and periphery syndrome. Not only did this consolidate the white gains in Southern Rhodesia but this also provided the surplus funds needed to establish important infrastructure such as roads, including tarred strip roads criss-crossing the commercial farms, grain storage silos, mining, industrialisation, manufacturing, rail network, extensive aerodromes and runways with related engineering and support services, dams and bridges. At independence in 1980, a well developed agro-based economy with limited industrialization as well as expanding commercial and manufacturing sectors that mirrored the apartheid system in South Africa was in place.
This development was further entrenched after both Zambia and Nyasaland had achieved their political independence in 1964. At the time, Rhodesia had Unilaterally Declared its Independence under white-minority-rule. This move was met with United Nations sanctions, imposed on the rebel regime. Its survival thereafter was through the largesse of the Union of SA, a country that continued to trade, invest and relate to Rhodesia until 1980. The collusion of the white-minority pariah states during the 1970s further strengthened the "fifth province" phenomenon. By 1980, on the eve of Zimbabwe's independence, the country had nearly 250 000 whites whose cultural identity and sporting inclinations in rugby, hockey, cricket, squash and golf was linked to SA schools and other senior leagues. Rhodesia also boasted a sophisticated economy second to and closely integrated to that of SA.
Zimbabwe's Foreign Policy(ies) to SA April 1980 to April 1994?
In trying to answer the question why Zimbabwe has experienced such a sharp economic decline in her relations with SA since 1994, the departure point must be the policies adopted after April 1980 to April 1994? However, in this short discussion paper, focus will only be paid to the critical years of the early 1990s to 1994. Briefly, however, in order to provide context of the 1980 to 1990, at independence, one of the early questions to be asked of Zimbabwe was whether or not she was going to join the SA dominated Customs Union or the competing Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC? Imbued with liberation credentials, the new government of Zimbabwe not only opted for SADCC(19) but also embraced its exclusive security version that sought to confront the apartheid regime in all spheres - the Front Line States.(20) In the mid-1980s, SA launched the now well documented regional Destabilisation Policy under its Total Military Strategy. This virtually created considerable havoc with the economies and infrastructure of countries such as Angola, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe was, therefore, pivotal in the success or failure of either SADCC or the regional Customs Union. The fact that she chose the SADCC and FLS routes, in retrospect, demonstrates that the country sacrificed more than many other Southern African countries in those groupings.
Events within the National Party culminating with the emergence of President De Klerk and his engagement with Nelson Mandela in 1988 and 1989 laid the foundations for majority rule in SA. The significance of these events appears to have been missed in Zimbabwe. By late 1989, SA was effectively being run with the consultation of the ANC through Nelson Mandela. The year 1990 opened with Mandela, theoretically free but choosing to remain in jail "while he prepared the ANC" for his release. Furthermore, it can also be argued that despite the fine details that emerged from the Conference on Democracy in South Africa (CODESA), De Klerk and Mandela continued to be the key players in overcoming sticking points and moving the process forward. By 1992, the SADC Heads of State and Governments in Windhoek, 'expressed confidence with the unfolding transitional developments in SA.'
The point to note about Zimbabwe's foreign policy at this juncture is that, the country failed to take into account these objective realities only to take the prize in 1994 of being the 'last country to recognize' the internally negotiated settlement in SA. Because the leading political policy makers took this stance, it failed to provide the signal for other players in business, sporting and cultural linkages who had to wait until the eleventh hour in order to engage. Thus, valuable lead time and the necessary framework 'to reintegrate the fifth province' was lost. Throughout the period under discussion, there is little evidence on the part of Zimbabwe of sustained planning aimed at, acknowledging and taking advantage of the concrete nature of the linkages that had evolved over the last 100 years between herself and her southern neighbour. This is an indictment and oversight that has to be urgently addressed in the future.
Furthermore, precisely at this time in 1990-91, Zimbabwe was seriously contemplating abandoning the Socialist path she had chosen in 1980 for a liberal and multi-party system. This followed a decade of economic stagnation, increased unemployment and other debilitating factors. In 1991, Zimbabwe launched the Economic Structural Programme (ESAP), a programme that allowed the winds of globalization and market forces to sweep through the political and economic sectors.(21) Located alongside the strong capitalist SA economy, it would have been only prudent to urgently embark on calibrating policies between the two. The fact that political considerations took precedence again resulted in mixed messages received by the economic players. The result of the ESAP inspired economic melt-down on the ground was to see increased outflows of skilled and professional staff followed by the unemployed.(22) Many of these headed for the affluent neighbouring states of SA and Botswana while the more adventurous relocated to the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States amongst other countries. This brain drain phenomenon created a secondary impact in the form of eroding local capacity required to manage affairs on behalf of the rest of society. The result was accelerated social and economic regression that, coupled with drought and famine soon had more than half of the population facing starvation by December 2002.
A third point to emerge from the above must also be the fact that there was little policy coordination between the liberation movements of ZANU (PF) and the ANC. The ANC had been a traditional ally of ZAPU during the armed struggle and had Mkonto WeSizwe (MK) operating with ZAPU's Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) in the Victoria Falls and Wankie areas of the then Rhodesia during the 1960s and 70s.(23) ZANU was a splinter movement from ZAPU in 1963 and publicly aligned itself to the SA Pan African Congress, (PAC), itself also a break-away movement from the ANC. This appears to have provided a shared common experience as the basis of identification. However, this has effectively denied the African policy makers of the ability to engage informally before crafting formal state policies. Against this background, it is safe to argue that there was little consultation or coordination between the ruling party in Harare and the ANC before the April elections of 1994. This assertion is also significant if we take into account the fact that, former liberation movements when in government, appear to defer more to party Politburo and Central Committee policy structures rather than formal cabinet, parliamentary or departmental bureaucratic influence. In other words, there is an ongoing policy structural struggle within the ruling parties in both Zimbabwe and South Africa. The question to ask is, to what extent is this dominance being felt within the formal bureaucratic channels? Where one has important government departments headed by party political persons also holding important party political posts, then the influence from outside formal government structures is greater. Perhaps this is the greatest lesson to emerge in the case of Zimbabwe before April 1994, in which the country's foreign policy continued to confront Pretoria, long after substantive changes had begun to occur from as early as 1989.
A preliminary summary of events before 1994 reflect a lack of concerted re-engagement of the "fifth province" to SA capitalist economy during the critical period of the 1990s. There is also a lack of appreciation of the 1992 SADC Heads of State and Governments pronouncement on regional security. Finally, policy conduct also shows failure to calibrate ANC and ZANU (PF) priorities as each prepared to manage the affairs of the state within preconditioned capitalist frameworks. The result was to lay the slippery foundations on which Zimbabwe was to find herself accelerating backwards as the new millennium dawned.
The era of tension (s).
Government of National Unity under Mandela April 1994 to April 1998.
As we have argued above, Mandela led a tripartite government of national unity (gnu) during which the tripartite nature of the ANC remained coherent. The focus of the GNU was to stabilise the internal situation in SA and revive the economy that had been under sanctions for so long. This left little room for paying the external debts of liberation commitments. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe expected preferential treatment, at a minimum, similar to the white-minority administrations accorded each other during the colonial era. Mandela could not deliver, overnight, the sort of preferential Customs Agreement enjoyed by Rhodesia since 1964. While the ANC now enjoyed political control, albeit limited, the economy was still in the hands of the departing white minority hands. Because of lack of delivery, Zimbabwe's relations with the Mandela regime appeared to be one of frustration. Meanwhile, in charge of the SA economy was the white financial establishment that was being divested of its political control. Its approach to business with Zimbabwe was lukewarm or flourished where they could exact super profits. This further exacerbated the already tense situation.
At the regional security level, once SA was free, the region tried to establish a common security umbrella. This was to be in the form of transforming the former FLS to a new Organ on Politics, Defence and Security. To cut a long story short, Mandela appeared to favour delegating to bureaucrats this responsibility under the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security. In contrast, the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe was convinced that, only the highest political body of SADC, the Summit should continue exercising influence on a separate organ from the SADC Secretariat.(24) This divergence of interpretation between the liberation heavy weights soon degenerated, effectively stifling any regional or common approach towards security.
Even as the divergence of opinion on security matters continued to rage, the Southern African region was confronted with increasing conflict scenarios. Initially, an ad-hoc arrangement involving the setting up of a Troika - comprising Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe was put into place. However, this was soon found inadequate when two serious conflicts broke out in 1998. First, in August 1998, Zimbabwe found itself leading a grouping of the SADC Allies in the DRC. This was soon followed by SA leading an intervention force supported by Botswana in Lesotho. This was the highest point of policy differences at the security level to manifest itself in the region. As we write, the fissures caused by this divergence have still not been fully addressed, leaving the region so much poorer in its common security.
Significant Zimbabwean internal developments at this time with implications to her relations with SA also occurred at this time. Just before August 1998 Zimbabwe's involvement in the DRC, internal policies related to defence and security expenditure had also begun to create domestic turmoil. In August 1997, gratuities were promised to thousands of war veterans, amongst whom was a sizeable number who had become destitute. However, the handling of the payouts was soon caught up in corrupt practices resulting in a government enquiry of the Chidyausiku Commission of Inquiry whose findings and recommendations were soon drowned in the accelerating political impasse gripping the country. The unplanned impact of this huge expenditure dislocated the already precarious economy from November 1997 while creating 'a privileged class'(25) within a society experiencing increasing deprivation. According to the UN Human Development Report of 2000, 75% of the Zimbabwean population was leaving below the poverty line. Serious social discontent began to characterize the country's political relations with implications for more people seeking refugee in neighbouring affluent states.
The impact of globalization unleashed in 1991 was also beginning to ravage the country and the region with neither little awareness nor concertated counter measures from policy makers. The most graphic effects was increased deindustrialization of the narrow colonial achievements in Zimbabwe at this time.(26) With the country in obvious crisis at this point, a major but localized Marshall Plan was needed in order to stem the tide in Zimbabwe. The OECD African Economic Outlook has provided an indictment on the local policy efforts attempting to reign in the economic malaise:
Because of increased business closures, a development that that threw thousands onto the streets, the labour movement -the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), supported by civic groups, middle classes, most of the urban community, the intelligentsia and students, began agitating against state policies. In September 1999, this association established an opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). This soon found ready support amongst COSATU membership and leadership laying the basis of a complex foreign policy relationship between Harare and Pretoria during the third and final epoch spanning the last two years of 2000 until the end of 2002.
Misperception: Unilateralism and Increased Dependence, February 2002 to December 2002.
The final era under discussion opened with Harare holding a Referendum on the much amended Lancaster House Constitution of 1979 that has been criticised for providing sweeping powers to the presidency since 1987. For the state, while not commenting on the presidential powers issue, its attention appeared focussed on factoring into the constitution the land reform programme. In February, the electorate, supported by the new opposition, rejected the proposed government draft that had been hastily put together during late 1999. In our estimation, the expression by the electorate also represented a protest vote targeted towards broader governance issues. Government took this as a ploy, simply constructed to unseat it from power and retain the status-quo. The referendum and its result was therefore, another case of misperception within large sections of Zimbabwean society itself.
The referendum was soon followed by national elections in June 2000. During the run up to the elections, the war veterans' organization re-emerged as a key element of the storm-troopers that government now relied upon in order to affect policies, outside the normal bureaucratic channels of existing law and order. In other words, state sponsored politically motivated violence led by the war veterans became a feature of policy making and implementation. Areas such as the land reform programme, dealing with the political opposition and other institutions such as the media, teachers unions and the labour movement began to feel the heat and many protested loudly. The launching of the policy employing guerrilla methods caught local, regional and the international community by surprise.
In the view of Pretoria, even as we write, this selection of this policy and its implementation included some serious errors of judgement. In order to limit the damage and impact of Zimbabwes' 'revolutionary policy,' SA embarked upon a curious 'quiet diplomacy' option that was soon publicly admitted by both President Mbeki and his Foreign Minister, Dr Nkozana Zuma as fruitless. SA engagement included underwriting and providing loans and credit to a country that had seen the withdrawal of the important international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank as well as the EU. Precisely how this impasse is going to end is still not clear. Significantly, President Mbeki has been one of the leading lights arguing for African Renaissance and revival through the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), a programme stressing democratic principles, accountability and creating favourable conditions for outside investment. Zimbabwe took the unprecedented step of publicly shooting down the idea and neglected its commitment to the African Union to sell the NEPAD idea to its electorate.(28)
Zimbabwe - South Africa relations since 1994 have depicted two countries, with previously close political, security, economic, social and cultural identities that had been carefully interwoven over the last hundred years, attempt to develop on different paths. However, the inertia from the linkages appears greater than the valiant efforts of the current crop of politicians. Moving from a period of tension in 1994 until 98, the bilateral relations entered yet another frosty period characterised with misperceptions in the important spheres of engagement. Finally, since early 2000, Harare's policies towards SA can be summarised as unpredictable, non-consultative and focusing away from mutual calibration. While SA fights the Zimbabwean corner within the Commonwealth, within the NEPAD debating corridors and other international fora, at home, she has been forced to fork out largesse in order to contain the crisis away from its borders. SA influence on Zimbabwe however, cannot be wished away as it is the only state that can wield effective actions on her embattled neighbour.
* Senior Lecturer and Executive Director, Centre for Defence Studies, University of Zimbabwe. He is currently Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Africa's International Relations, International Relations Department, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.