DFID's Assistance to Zimbabwe - International Development Committee Contents

3  Regional relations

51. DFID states that Zimbabwe's economy and its external relations are tied into the region in three ways:

·  by the prominent political role played by Zimbabwe in regional institutions such as SADC and the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA);

·  through trade links facilitated by these institutions; and

·  by significant outward migration from Zimbabwe.[77]

Zimbabwe had a greater regional economic role in Southern Africa until 1994, when apartheid ended in South Africa. Many businesses, NGOs and media organisations which had their headquarters in Harare have now moved to South Africa, thereby diminishing the role of Harare in the region. Zimbabwe's trade volumes have extensively declined as the economic crisis has developed.[78] Professor Brett said that "Zimbabwe used to be the major player after South Africa in the regional economy and all of that has gone [... it] has imposed huge losses on everybody in that region."[79] International Crisis Group highlighted the major regional impact which Zimbabwe's recovery could make: "a prosperous Zimbabwe could be an engine of growth for the region, providing key links to regional communications, transport and electricity grids." [80]

52. Zimbabwe used to produce large amounts of agricultural surpluses that were exported to neighbouring countries and the rest of the world. Since the collapse of the economy and the huge reduction in agricultural productivity, Zimbabwe has been unable to supply vital food crops to its neighbours, and has required food aid to feed its own people. Ending food exports to its neighbours has contributed to the strains in its relations with them.

53. When our predecessors examined the humanitarian crisis in southern Africa in 2003 they reported that the "dire situation in Zimbabwe has major implications for the rest of southern Africa [...] as regards both the availability and price of food, especially maize, and the delivery of food aid and commercial imports." At the time DFID commented:

    The fact that Zimbabwe, normally a food supplier and a key transit country, has suffered such a collapse in agricultural production has made the situation in neighbouring countries worse and weakened the prospects for recovery; for the longer term, it throws into question one of the bases of food security planning in southern Africa for the last 20 years, namely that surpluses would normally be available in Zimbabwe.[81]

Since 2003, the situation has further deteriorated, with more commercial farms having been appropriated and agricultural production continuing to fall.


54. High unemployment, compounded by political instability and violence, has driven tens of thousands of professional and skilled workers to leave Zimbabwe to find work abroad. Steve Kibble explained that it was difficult to calculate accurately the number of people who have left Zimbabwe. Some attempts have been made to do this, either by counting them or by extrapolating from what the population would have been, taking into account the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other factors. He concluded that the estimated numbers of migrants was "up to three million". The majority of skilled migrants are in South Africa, Botswana or the UK. Millions of less-skilled workers have migrated to other Southern African countries and Europe.[82]

55. South Africa has the largest population of Zimbabwean emigrants with an official estimate of just over one million, although DFID says that the real number is likely to be significantly higher. 82% of emigrants are estimated to have a formal qualification and 38% a first or higher degree.[83] Dr Kibble explained that there was a problem in that local people in neighbouring countries saw Zimbabweans living there purely as economic migrants who were simply seeking jobs, and took the view that it was "nothing to do with the current crisis inside Zimbabwe".[84] However, the point was also made to us in informal discussions that South Africa had benefited economically from the influx of skilled and professional Zimbabweans and also from the pool of cheap Zimbabwean labour for construction work associated with preparations for the football World Cup this year.

56. Relations between Zimbabwe and its southern neighbours, South Africa and Botswana, have deteriorated due to this migration. International Crisis Group says that "instability in Zimbabwe is profoundly destabilizing to its neighbours. Zimbabweans fleeing economic hardship and political abuses have flooded across borders, overwhelming the social services and the good will of South Africa, Botswana, and other neighbours".[85] Malawi has had to cope with different problems arising from its citizens returning from Zimbabwe, following the closure of many mines there, where Malawians had been employed. Meanwhile, the plight of former farm-workers in Zimbabwe, who were largely of Malawian descent, has caused tensions between the countries.[86]

Southern African Development Community

57. ACTSA told us that the "region wants a resolution to the crisis of Zimbabwe" but that the solution "has to come from Zimbabwe, facilitated and encouraged by the region." The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is taking the lead in supporting the mediation process in Zimbabwe, on behalf of the African Union. [87] Zimbabwe has played a prominent role in SADC since independence.[88] SADC now has 15 member states. Its vision is:

    [...] one of a common future, within a regional community that will ensure economic well-being, improvement of the standards of living and quality of life, freedom and social justice; peace and security for the peoples of Southern Africa. This shared vision is anchored on the common values and principles and the historical and cultural affinities that exist amongst the peoples of Southern Africa.[89]

SADC has agreed that South Africa should mediate on its behalf in Zimbabwe. As we have described, SADC facilitated agreement on the GPA and the formation of the GNU, under the mediation of the then South African President, Thabo Mbeki.

58. According to Donald Steinberg, South Africa is applying pressure on the parties in Zimbabwe to implement the GPA fully, but he believes it needs to do so with the co-operation of the international community.[90] The DFID Minister considered that SADC had a key role to play in resolving Zimbabwe's economic problems, and that it had accepted that role in terms of acting as guarantor of the GPA. President Zuma of South Africa had appointed a "high-level team with significant reputations [...] to lead on [the] mediation process". The Minister was encouraged that this process was in progress; he told us that it should be respected and that the UK was monitoring the situation closely. He stressed that the UK looked to the "leadership of both South Africa and SADC [...] to provide that on-the-spot mediation work that they are doing."[91]

59. Following the formation of the GNU, SADC members have also urged the African Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and western donors to support the GNU financially. ACTSA noted that South African businesses were increasing investment in Zimbabwe and that private sector investment from across the region could assist economic recovery.[92]

60. SADC has also been involved in the land reform issue. The SADC Tribunal ruled on 28 November 2008 that Zimbabwe's planned seizure of dozens of white-owned farms violated international law and should be halted immediately. The Economist took the view that the Zimbabwean authorities had displayed their contempt for SADC decisions by pouring scorn on the judgment that had "ruled in favour of 79 white farmers whose land had been targeted for confiscation under Mr Mugabe's land-reform programme". It reported a Zimbabwean Government official as saying the tribunal was "daydreaming" if it thought the Government would comply with the ruling.[93] Dr Kibble considered that, although a judgment might be passed by the SADC Tribunal, there was no mechanism to put the judgment into practice "without the SADC political organisations taking part and that [...] is obviously much trickier."[94] Professor Brett told us:

    SADC and South Africa are seen as legitimate interlocutors by both parties [ZANU-PF and the MDC], but the MDC and civic organisations claim, with some justice, that their explicit or implicit support for ZANU over the past decade enabled it to manipulate elections, retain political power and destroy the economy. They did help to broker the GPA but have failed to oblige ZANU to honour its agreements. However, they have been forced to deal with the MDC since the 2008 victory, and do recognise the need for a viable solution to reduce the heavy costs that the crisis has imposed on the region.[95]

61. The member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are the guarantors of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). We believe that the UK Government should urge SADC collectively, and South Africa in particular, to continue to work with the Government of National Unity towards full implementation of the GPA. We are disappointed that Zimbabwe has defied the SADC Tribunal ruling on land seizures. Zimbabwe should recognise the authority of SADC. The fact that there are no mechanisms for enforcement of the ruling is a matter of concern to us and should be addressed.

62. SADC should also fully support economic recovery in Zimbabwe. This would bring wider benefits to the whole region, not just to Zimbabwe itself. It would also encourage Zimbabwean migrants to return and help address the tensions which the large number of migrants in neighbouring countries has caused.

77   Ev 62 Back

78   Ev 62 Back

79   Q 10 [Professor Brett] Back

80   Ev 80 Back

81   Third Report of Session 2003-03, The Humanitarian Crisis in Southern Africa, HC 116-I, para 33 Back

82   Q 10 [Dr Kibble]. See also Dr Steve Kibble, "Who Controls the 'New' Zimbabwe", February 2009, p 3 [Unpublished paper] Back

83   Ev 63 Back

84   Q 10 [Dr Kibble] Back

85   Ev 80 Back

86   Security and Democracy in Southern Africa, International Development Research Centre, 2007, Chapter 14, available at www.idrc.ca/institution Back

87   Ev 37 Back

88   Ev 62 Back

89   See SADC website at www.sadc.int Back

90   Q 11 Back

91   Qs 65-68 Back

92   Ev 37 Back

93   "Reaching Rock Bottom", The Economist, 4 December 2008 Back

94   Q 12 [Dr Kibble] Back

95   Ev 40 Back

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