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Zimbabwe - Foreign Relations

The Foreign Policy of a country can be defined as a set of goals that seek to outline how that country will interface at an official level with other countries of the world and, to a lesser extent, with non-state actors in pursuit of its national economic, political, social and cultural interests. Zimbabwes foreign policy objectives are grounded in safeguarding the countrys sovereignty and territorial integrity; the protection of its prestige and image ; the pursuit of policies that improve the standard of living of all Zimbabweans wherever they are; and the creation and maintenance of an international environment conducive for the attainment of these goals.

Since independence, Zimbabwe has enunciated and follows a policy of "active nonalignment." In practice, this has meant that Zimbabwe usually adhered to positions established by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union; or, until it withdrew in 2003, the Commonwealth. Zimbabwe took a particular interest in the quest for independence for Namibia (South-West Africa) from South Africa. In addition, as chairman of the front-line states in southern Africa, Zimbabwe spoke out vigorously against the policies of apartheid in South Africa and frequently called for the imposition of economic sanctions against Pretoria.

No country had extended diplomatic recognition to Rhodesia during the UDI period or to Muzorewa's Zimbabwe Rhodesia internal settlement regime. This isolation ended in 1980 with the attendance of many foreign delegations at the independence ceremonies and the subsequent establishment of diplomatic missions in Harare by nearly fifty countries. It was foreseen by the government that during the course of 1982.

After independence on April 18, 1980, the government launched a process of establishing contact with the international community, which for sixteen years had subjected its Rhodesian predecessor to economic sanctions and diplomatic ostracism. Zimbabwe's application to become the forty-third member of the Commonwealth had already been approved. Mugabe personally took up Zimbabwe's seat in the UN in August 1980, stressing in an address to the General Assembly his country's commitment to nonalignment with either the West or the communist world. Zimbabwe was admitted to the OAU as its fiftieth member and to the Lome Convention of Third World states associated with the Euro Economic Community (EEC).

Having been a focal point in the racial and ideological struggle in southern Africa, Zimbabwe was forced to adapt quieldy to a new role as a featured player in the strained politics of the area. It became a member of the informal grouping of so-called front-line states of southern Africa, which had shifted its attention from Zimbabwean independence to the future of Namibia (South West Africa). The Zimbabwean capital also became the headquarters of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), an assemblage of nine nations seeking reduced dependency on South Africa by intensified regional cooperation in industrialization, energy, food distribution, and animal disease control.

In November 1982, Zimbabwe was chosen by the OAU to hold one of the non-permanent seats in the UN Security Council for the following 2 years, which brought it to the center stage of world events and gave it much-needed experience in international affairs. In 1986, Zimbabwe was the site of the NAM summit meeting; Prime Minister Mugabe became chairman of that organization, giving both Mugabe and Zimbabwe added international visibility and responsibility.

Zimbabwe maintains embassies in Angola, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.), Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, United Kingdom, the United States, and Zambia. Fifty-three countries are represented in Harare, as are several international organizations including UN institutions, the European Union, and the World Bank. Zimbabwe is a member of many international organizations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF); African Development Bank; World Trade Organization; Southern African Development Community (SADC); Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa (PTA); African Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP, in association with the EU); Group of 77 (G-77); Group of 15 (G-15); NAM; African Union (AU); Customs Cooperation Council (CCC); and World Federation of Trade Unions.

Shortly after the March 2002 presidential election, the Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe from leadership councils for 1 year after the Commonwealth's election observer team found the conduct of the election seriously flawed. After this suspension was upheld in December 2003, Mugabe withdrew Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth. The IMF closed its Zimbabwe office in October 2004.

Other West European countries have ties with Zimbabwe. The Scandinavian countries share certain philosophical affinities and have provided much assistance, as have France, Canada, and Germany. Portugal and Greece maintain links partly because of the sizable Portuguese and Greek communities in the country. Similar historical ties have led to the establishment of relations with India and Pakistan, and to a lesser extent, with Bangladesh. The government's "Look East" policy has led to closer diplomatic relations with East Asian countries such as Malaysia and China.

Zimbabwe maintains diplomatic relations with virtually every African country, although some ties are closer than others. African nations with embassies in Harare are Algeria, Angola, Botswana, D.R.C., Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Zimbabwe has taken an active interest in the activities of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation set up by SADC to deal with inter and intra-state conflict resolution while recognizing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states. Zimbabwe takes pride in this milestone and other institutions and mechanisms that include the SADC Mutual Defence Pact and the formation of the SADC Brigade. The SADC members took the decision to conclude the Mutual Defence Pact on the basis of the principle of collective security. More importantly, this principle promotes the injure one, injure all concept which saw the region come to the rescue of the DRC in the 1990s. The SADC Brigade will not only contribute to peace and security in the region but the continent as a whole, under the auspices of the African Standby Force.

Zimbabwe developed and maintains close ties with a number of revolutionary states and organizations. Among these are the People's Republic of China, Cuba, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

In addition to not being a 'revolutionary comrade' as Thabo Mbeki was, South African President Jacob Zuma, being Zulu, does not have the same sense of kinship with Mugabe, a Shona. Zuma did not treat Mugabe as a head of state at the 2009 SADC conference, dealing with him instead as just the head of a party. This was so different from the way Mbeki treated him that Mugabe was reportedly quite shaken by the experience.

A group of bilateral donors and international agencies met in the Hague on October 2, 2007 and agreed on a principles-based approach to reengagement with the government of Zimbabwe. At that time, SADC was facilitating talks between the parties regarding the holding of elections. President Robert Mugabe pushed for elections in 2010. An agreement was ultimately reached to hold elections in March 2008. The run up to the elections was mostly free of the violence and intimidation that had characterized earlier elections. The Hague principles are:

  1. Full and equal access to humanitarian assistance;
  2. Commitment to macroeconomic stabilization in accordance with guidance from relevant international agencies;
  3. Restoration of the rule of law, including enforcement of contracts, an independent judiciary, and respect for property rights;
  4. Commitment to the democratic process and respect for human rights, including a commitment to freedom of expression, freedom of print and broadcast media, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association;
  5. A commitment to timely elections held in accordance with international standards, and in the presence of international election observers.

Zimbabwe-EU relations became strained when the EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe on the pretext that the 2002 Presidential elections, which the EU did not observe, were not free and fair. Subsequently, the bloc rejected the verdict of the March 2005 Parliamentary elections which gave the ruling Party a landslide victory and, lately also rejected the results of the June 2008 Presidential run-off election. Since then the West has continued with its attempts at effecting illegal regime change in Zimbabwe, to the extent of even politicising the cholera outbreak so as to justify interfering in the internal affairs of the country. Thus the EU has taken unilateral measures and made unilateral demands without due dialogue or engagement taking place yet Zimbabwe has always been ready to dialogue with it.

An arms embargo is a ban on the export of arms and related material (ie military ammunition, weapons and goods). This can be put in place by either the UN, the EU, the Organisation on Security and Co-operation in Europe or at a UK national level. The UK interprets an arms embargo as covering all goods and items on the UK Military List (which forms part of the UK Strategic Export Control Lists), unless stated otherwise. Additionally, some goods which are not on the UK Military List might also need an export licence. For more information, see the guide on Military End-Use Control. Zimbabwe is also subject to Trade Controls under Schedule 4 Part 2 of the Export Control Order 2008. This means that the destination is both embargoed and subject to transit control for military goods.

The main EU legislation regarding Zimbabwe is Council Regulation (EC) No 310/2002. It has been in force since 18 February 2002. The Regulation provides for an arms embargo and ban on export of equipment for internal repression, as well as a number of other sanctions. In February 2004, the embargo was renewed by Common Position 2004/161/CFSP and modified by Council Regulation (EC) No 314/2004. This regulation introduced prohibitions on the granting, selling, supply or transfer of technical assistance related to military equipment.

Confronted with these numerous challenges resulting from the sanctions, the Government of Zimbabwe adopted the LOOK EAST POLICY. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been on the forefront to implement this policy, guided by the Governments Policy, Vision and Strategy documents designed to increase Zimbabwes cooperation with a number of countries in Asia and the Far East. The Visions and Strategies provide guidelines on the thrust of Zimbabwes co-operation and prioritise projects in which a co-operating country has expressed interest, projects in which Zimbabwe has comparative advantage, projects that are ready for implementation, projects that will promote exports, joint ventures and projects meant to assist in the re-capitalization of distressed public enterprises. Consequently, a deliberate decision was made to initially focus on China, Iran, Indonesia, India and Malaysia in effecting the above policy, hence broadening the scope of Zimbabwe,s foreign policy.

Zimbabwe fully identifies with the African position or the Ezulwini Consensus on UN reform whose main elements include the allocation to Africa in the Security Council of two permanent seats and three more non-permanent seats; and either scrapping of the veto for all permanent members or extension of the same to all members. It should be noted here that Africa is the only continent without the veto in the present set up.

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Page last modified: 17-11-2016 19:35:30 ZULU