Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Written evidence submitted by Dr Anthony Lemon

  I would suggest that the following issues be addressed by the inquiry:

  1.  South Africa's role in Southern Africa in relation to the crisis in Zimbabwe. Western and UK frustration concerning the reluctance of Thabo Mbeki to go beyond quiet diplomacy needs to be understood in relation to the regional dynamics of the Zimbabwe crisis. South Africa has a strong motivation to maintain stability in relations with Zimbabwe, given that a high proportion of Zimbabwean migrants go to South Africa and much of South Africa's trade with the rest of the region traverses Zimbabwe. South African reluctance to impose sanctions needs to be understood in terms of the possibility that Mugabe would respond by seeking to isolate South Africa within SADC, thereby gaining leverage within the region.

  2.  A second critical element of regional dynamics concerns the need for neighbouring countries to retain effective working relationships with Harare. This demands understanding of the impacts of the situation on each country in the region and individual stances of each sovereign government towards Zimbabwe. In Botswana, for example, key issues that inform foreign policy towards Zimbabwe include cross-border crime, refuges, illegal immigrants, HIV/AIDS, poverty and small arms trafficking. The Botswana President, Festus Mogae, has characterised the crisis in Zimbabwe as a result of a "drought of governance", but said that "Botswana does not have the inclination or the capacity to impose [its] will on other people".

  3.  The impacts of UK foreign policy in other areas, especially the Middle East, on how the UK is perceived and characterised by governments in Southern Africa needs investigation. This may be beyond the remit of the inquiry, but arguably has a fundamental impact on the effectiveness or otherwise of UK policies in the region. Specifically, it may help to explain why SADC leaders, despite the NEPAD and African Union ideals of peer review, have refrained from public criticism of Zimbabwe despite mounting criticism from the UK and other Western governments. UK foreign policy options are severely constrained, and the case for quiet rather than `megaphone' diplomacy with governments in Southern Africa is strong.

  4.  The UK-South Africa bilateral trading relationship, and the regulatory environment governing the relationship, is frequently confusing for many South African civil servants. The Inquiry should consider how the FCO and the High Commission could do more within South Africa to promote a better understanding of the trade competencies of both the European Union and the United Kingdom.

  5.  The NEPAD partnership needs a more honest and critical evaluation on behalf of the G8 and OECD, with a peer review of G8 states and the approaches and achievements of those states in relation to the promotion of NEPAD goals. Constructive engagement in this critical area could lead to improved perceptions of Western governments, which could (gradually) give them more influence in promoting good governance and regional stability.

Anthony Lemon

Mansfield College, Oxford

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