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The Regional and International Context



Zimbabwe is one of the United Nations Member States and is a member of SADC, COMESA and the AU. As a member of the international and regional bodies Zimbabwe is signatory to many legal instruments and protocols that seek to uphold human rights and the rule of law and foster human development. These include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, SADC Declaration on Gender among others.


The ZANU-PF led government shares an anti-colonial history involving armed struggle with Mozambique and South Africa and has strong ties with liberation parties in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, RSA, Tanzania and Zambia. It also took sides with and was one of the strongest backers of the government in DRC. Because of its credentials in liberation from colonialism and role in the anti-apartheid struggle, most SADC and indeed AU countries find it difficult to take positions against the leadership in the face of political turbulence that the country is experiencing. Consequently, Zimbabwe has been on a political rollercoaster during the past decade.


On the economic front, Zimbabwe was for long the second strongest, most diversified and sophisticated economy with a well developed and infrastructure, after RSA. RSA is the economic powerhouse in SADC and Zimbabwe was its single largest trading partner in the region. South Africa continues to play a significant role in the political economic issues of Zimbabwe. Having played a significant role in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, it continues to support Zimbabwe in the current crisis, through providing guidance and support in coming up with workable solutions to the crisis. South Africa has also financially supported the country when all the western allies isolated the regime. At a time when the Zimbabwean economy was at its lowest, South Africa was able to accommodate Zimbabwean citizens seeking alternative employment, shelter as refugees and livelihoods during times of hunger. While South Africa has been expected to take a confrontational approach to Mugabe, it has resorted to diplomatic strategies for continued partnership and support. It is undoubtable that when the Zimbabwe economy was experiencing a severe meltdown in the past 9 years, it adversely affected countries in the sub-region especially South Africa and to some extent threatened sub-regional development progress. South Africa has however emerged even stronger than South Africa as Zimbabwe to some extent has also adopted the Rand as a trading currency and the Country has largely depended on South Africa economically.


Positive changes happening in Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, the DRC and South Africa in the political and economic arena are hoped to provide some positive influence to the situation in Zimbabwe. The prospects for growth are currently positive across all sectors, with major expansion potential in agriculture, Mining, manufacturing, tourism, telecoms, construction and transport. It is however important to note the investment support especially in the mining , manufacturing, tourism, energy and transport sectors that have been pledged from countries such as Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Namibia.

Zimbabwe’s relations with the rest of the international community, especially the West have largely been strained. Western countries have imposed selective restrictions on the country and have withheld bi- and multilateral support to the government sighting poor leadership and economic governance strategies by the then ruling government. The targeted sanctions or restrictions have invariably impacted on the formal and informal sectors thereby affecting the majority of the population. The new government is gradually re-engaging the international development community. Agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank are clearly anxious to support the country’s recovery as illustrated by the recent US$500 million loan from IMF. It is clear that the international donor community while it is anxious to help Zimbabwe, the help will only be provided when a steady progress towards full democracy is realised. Lack of economic support from Western economies saw the government look to liberation war allies like China for assistance. The envisaged support from that direction has been less than overwhelming as the East is now looking at relations more from a business perspective and the country continues to limp along economically.


The international and regional context presents opportunities for civil society organisations to lobby regional bodies to influence for political reform in Zimbabwe and the international bodies and institutions for resource mobilisation for involvement of the poor and marginalised in the change processes.


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