New global political order
The world is fast reconfiguring and realigning towards a new, multipolar global political order. To this end, all instruments — including war, intrusive extra-territorial legislation, coercive diplomacy and outright destabilisation — are being employed. Africa is at great risk from all these, as this order evolves amidst the fog of war, and the growing threats of a nuclear holocaust.
Our recent African Union Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, addressed this dangerous turn in global affairs, including the ensuing conflict in Eastern Europe, which increasingly threatens global peace and security. The Summit also discussed United States of America’s gross attempts to control our continent through extraterritorial legislation.
The US “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act” seeks to empower America to employ intrusive and coercive diplomacy and policing in Africa and, worst of all, to allow it to “monitor natural resources and extractive industries” on our continent. This is unprecedented.
Aiming to control a continent
Further, the Act gives the US government power “to hold accountable the Russian Federation and African governments and their officials who are complicit in aiding what, in the view of the United States government, passes for “malign influence and activities” of Russia in Africa.
Such “malign activities” include anything that the US government interprets as attempts to:
(i) “manipulate African governments and their policies, as well as the public opinions and voting preferences of African populations and diaspora groups, including those in the US; and
(ii) invest in, engage, or otherwise control strategic sectors in Africa, such as mining and other forms of natural resource extraction and exploitation, military basing and other security cooperation agreements, and information and communications technology. Both provisions are exceedingly patronising and vitiate against the notion of equality of sovereign nations, regardless of size or hemispheric placement.
ZDERA, a foretaste
Zimbabwe is already a victim of such illegal, extra-territorial legislation in the form of ZDERA which, with hindsight, is now turning out to be a foretaste for the whole African continent. US containment policy in our country seems to go beyond ourselves and the Russian Federation only; it extends to People’s Republic of China as well. Recently, we saw American senators quizzing their incoming ambassador to Zimbabwe, Ms Pamela Tremont, on how she hopes to challenge Chinese activities in Zimbabwe! We do not think this is a prudent way to handle our bilateral relations.
Protecting our national interest
Against such threats, it is vitally important that Zimbabwe evolves quickly by securing herself and her interests in this fast-changing, often hostile, global order. New alliances are forming; old rules are being re-written or being replaced entirely by new ones, which are not always just and fair, especially to small, vulnerable states endowed with rich resources.
We have to be prepared, lest we are left behind, or simply get overrun in the emerging struggles and often hostile alliances.
Broadening our diplomatic footprint
To secure our interests, we must deepen and broaden our global diplomatic footprint, starting here on our African continent. We should never forget that throughout our struggles as a people, both before and after our independence, Africa has always been our strongest defence, and remains our home.
I am happy that the sister Federal Republic of Ethiopia is preparing to reopen her Chancery in our country, after closing it a few years back when that sister country was going through challenges. Ethiopia is important to Zimbabwe and to Africa as a whole; we celebrate the return of peace in that key African country, which historically symbolises Africa’s independence and our continental unity. The Organisation of African Unity, OAU, now African Union, AU, was launched in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, back in 1963. Since then, it has remained the seat of our continental body, the AU. For Zimbabwe, Ethiopia was a staunch ally that supported our Liberation Struggle. After independence, Ethiopia helped us rebuild and Africanise our aviation sector, including the training of our Air Zimbabwe pilots.
New Chancery for Equatorial Guinea
As I write, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ assessment team has completed its mission to Equatorial Guinea. I paid a State visit to that sister Republic early this year, during which several agreements meant to deepen our bilateral relations were inked. We shall be opening a full Embassy in that oil-rich African country with which we have enjoyed all-round relations. My counterpart, President Nguema Mbasogo, will be replying to my State visit once arrangements are finalised. In the meantime, we will be hosting the President of Senegal, His Excellency Macky Sall, who is billed to open our Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, ZITF, in Bulawayo.
Deepening relations with Belarus
Further afield, similar missions have concluded visits to Belarus and Pakistan. We will be opening embassies in both countries before long. Belarusian leader, President Lukashenko, was in our country early this year, in response to my invitation to him to pay us a State visit. This followed an inaugural visit I made to Belarus as President of Zimbabwe in January 2018. Belarus has been and remains a solid partner in our economic development, most notably in the agricultural and mining sectors. Our ZMDC secured earthmoving equipment from Belarus following the visit I paid to that country then as Vice President under the First Republic. Our programme to modernise and mechanise Zimbabwean agriculture has largely been powered by the Republic of Belarus. The time has now come for us to upgrade our presence in that strategic country by opening a full Chancery.
Setting diplomatic base in Pakistan
Pakistan, on the other hand, played a key role in setting up our Airforce of Zimbabwe, AFZ, soon after independence. Not many Zimbabweans know that a whole squadron of our jet fighter planes was blown up by embittered Rhodesian airmen stationed at the then Thornhill Airbase, now Josiah Tungamirai Airbase, in Gweru, in the early days of our independence. As if that was not enough, efforts at Africanising our Airforce by integrating our freedom fighters who had trained as airforce pilots in different countries were also frustrated by the white command then exclusively running the Airforce.
It was then that we turned to the Republic of Pakistan to assist us, including asking it to second a senior officer, Air Marshal Daud Pota, who became the first-ever commander of our nascent Airforce after independence. The officer remained with us until our commanders, notably the late General Solomon Mujuru, and the late Air Chief Marshall Josiah Tungamirai, who eventually took over from the Pakistani, finished their training. Since then, our two airforces have maintained close relations, including in the training of our airmen, technicians on equipment and in other security-related fields. We now feel this relationship has matured enough to warrant the opening of a full Chancery in Islamabad.
I am happy our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has fully transformed itself to execute intricate demands of transactional diplomacy. Increasingly and as a result, economic issues now loom large in their transactions. Our two-pronged policy thrust of engagement and re-engagement has given the ministry enough scope to interact gainfully both on new frontiers and on old turf. Even faraway countries like Jamaica and Latvia now seek closer ties with us, with almost all countries in the European Union favouring and pursuing friendly relations with us, unlike a few years back. We remain committed to the policy of being a friend to all and an enemy to none.
Middle East and Persia
In the Middle East and in Persia, we continue to make remarkable inroads. Apart from our excellent relations with the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, we shall soon be announcing new diplomatic initiatives in respect of Saudi Arabia. Before long, I shall pay a State visit to Iran, a Persian country with which we have long-standing diplomatic relations.
Re-engaging US, UK
In both the United States of America and in the United Kingdom, re-engagement continues. Late last year, our Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade attended the USA-Africa Summit. This was the first-ever time such an invitation was extended to Zimbabwe. We hope the Administration there is beginning to see that relations between us must be re-based, putting behind us the unwarranted and undeserved punitive measures which do not serve our mutual interests. In early May, I shall be attending the coronation of King Charles III, again adding a positive chapter to our bilateral relations with the United Kingdom.
Foreign observers for 2023
Sometime this year, we will go for our harmonised general elections. As I write, everything is being done to ensure everyone who wants to vote in the forthcoming elections is facilitated. Our elections will be free and fair, and will be conducted in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. Government will formally invite foreign observers once I have proclaimed dates for the harmonised elections. We view elections as yet another plank for anchoring and furthering our global diplomacy, as well as re-confirming our commitment to international tenets on democracy. We, however, will not entertain undue interference in our electoral processes which should remain sovereign.
A fair and just global order
We never tire of seeking global friendships and working for global peace through advocating a fair and just global order in which all states are equal, obey same rules, and in which any and all misunderstandings are resolved through peaceful means. Indeed, this is what the United Nations Charter bids all nations to do.
President Emerson Mnangagwa is Zimbabwe’s Head of State. The article reflects the author’s opinions and not necessarily the views of The Southern African Times.