Wednesday August 15, 2007 [04:00]
There is no alternative to regional integration. And any politician who doesn't realise the importance of regional integration is not fit to be called a politician or indeed to be in politics. Regions of the world are integrating at a very fast pace. Even the most economically powerful countries are seeking one form of regional integration or another.
The United States is busy trying to get some Latin American countries in some form of regional integration with it. Europe is continuing to expand its union while the Asian countries are also getting closer to each other.
As the political leaders of our region assemble in Lusaka this week at their annual Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit, they must realise that there's need for more urgency in the SADC regional integration. SADC has produced many excellent declarations, protocols and so on and so forth. Although more of these are needed and they will never be enough, what we mostly need now as a region are actions to realise all these declarations, protocols etc. The SADC regional integration should become a reality now.
Our regional body is now over 27 years old. This is not a short period. SADC is almost the same age as Zimbabwe, which gained its independence in the same year the latter came into being.
We feel we are moving too slow in the SADC integration. We can surely move faster than this. Now that all the countries of our region are independent states, working together for regional integration must be much faster because nothing can stop us, except the walls of ignorance, selfishness and prejudice that divide free men and women from each other. These walls are not outside and beyond us. Minds build them; minds can knock them down.
There is need now for us to move towards the creation of a Southern African community; we should move beyond mere regional cooperation. But the creation of that Southern African community entails sharing not only the benefits but also the burdens of each other. For instance, the problems going on in Zimbabwe that have left that country's economy on its knees should be felt in every pore by all the citizens of this region. The people of Zimbabwe should not be left alone to carry this cross to Calvary.
But for the region to play a meaningful role in the problems of Zimbabwe, it must first feel Zimbabwe is part of it and the problems of that country are its own problems. This means the region must have a legitimate say in everything that affects that country and its people because they are not only citizens of Zimbabwe, but they are also citizens of our region. Here there is need also to realise that there can be no duties without rights. The SADC region has got duties towards Zimbabwe and accordingly it has rights in what goes on in that country.
A few months ago the SADC political leadership passed very important resolutions at their meeting in Dar-es-Salaam aimed at trying to get Zimbabwe out of its problems. There was a decision to launch a diplomatic offensive to help lift the economic blockade Zimbabwe has been subjected to for the last few years. There was also a resolution tasking the SADC secretariat to come up with recommendations of economic and financial measures needed for a reversal of fortunes in that country.
There was also a realisation of the need to stabilise the internal politics in that country by bringing together the opposition and the government. There's very little that a country beset by political divisions so deep can achieve. Multi-party democracy does not mean those in government cannot work with those in opposition. This type of democracy is based on the belief of a loyal opposition - loyal not to the policies and programmes of those in power but to the legitimacy of the state. After all, political competition in a multi-party democracy is not about survival; it's merely a competition to serve.
We have also not seen much about the SADC campaign to reduce the international isolation of Zimbabwe. What we have seen however, is the stepping up of imperialist onslaught on Zimbabwe, trying to strangle this country further. No country in the world can today tackle all its problems by itself. Even the African countries that are boasting of doing well economically are doing so because of the credits and cooperation they are receiving. Some of them have more than 40 per cent of their budgets supported by donors. If this is withdrawn all these countries would be worse than Zimbabwe.
We therefore call on the SADC leadership to do everything possible to rescue Zimbabwe from its Armageddon. And in return, Zimbabwe has to accept to follow the norms of governance set by the SADC leadership - there is nothing for nothing.
So far the SADC leadership has done very well on the question of Zimbabwe and has demonstrated a very high degree of political independence and maturity. However, what remains is to turn that into concrete actions that will get this great country out of the doldrums and enable it to play a meaningful role in the integration of our region. We also urge all Zimbabweans to turn to the region for a solution to their problems. Reliance on the support of the United States and Britain will only polarise their feelings towards each other in a manner that will make it impossible for them to achieve some reasonable measure of national unity. It is very clear to us that the United States and Britain have not and are not playing a positive role in Zimbabwe. And anyone who is looking towards these two countries for a solution to the Zimbabwean crisis is wasting time. Moreover, where have these two countries brought a solution?
They went into Afghanistan and divided the Afghans; they went into Iraq and divided the Iraqis. We also know that they have caused serious divisions among the Palestinians, pitting one humble faction against the other to a point of rendering their whole struggle against Israeli occupation impotent. The Afghans are today killing each other without any vision as when and how this fighting will stop. The US and Britain also don't seem to have a solution to the divisions they have created in Iraq. We urge the Zimbabwean opposition to retreat from the European capitals and try to resolve their differences with the Zimbabwean government within the SADC framework. The Zimbabwean opposition have the right to exist and to be recognised by SADC but it can only increase its influence if it shows respect for the SADC structures.
Let the Lusaka SADC summit be a turning point in our regional integration; let's move into a much higher gear of regional integration. There's nothing to fear about regional integration because there will be no losers - all will be winners. Let us not take half-hearted measures; let's go all out for regional integration of our region.