By Abayomi Azikiwe
Southern African Development Community (SADC) states are facing monumental challenges in the coming decade. Sixteen member-governments in the sub-continent have adopted strategies aimed at economic growth and sustainable development, which are connected with solving problems created by climate change and the continuing impact of the legacy of settler-colonialism.
The Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) has been the ruling party inside the country since its independence from the British racist regime headed by Ian Smith in April 1980. This coming year will represent 40 years of liberation in a nation where Africans were deprived of land and self-determination for nearly a century.
2020 will also mark the 20th anniversary of the sweeping land redistribution program where many European-controlled farms were seized and turned over to the African people. Land was the major issue during the war of liberation during the 1960s and 1970s and the ZANU-PF government maintains that the reform policies will remain intact.
ZANU-PF held its 18th Annual National People’s Conference (NPC) from December 11-13 where the primary focus of the gathering was to discuss and reinforce strategies aimed at rebuilding the beleaguered economy. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been in power since November 2017 having taken over in the aftermath of the resignation of the late head-of-state President Robert G. Mugabe, who passed away earlier in September at the age of 95.
Since taking office as a direct result of an internal power struggle within ZANU-PF which culminated in November 2017, President Mnangagwa, affectionately known as ED, has set out to create the conditions for greater political transparency and the intensification of the battle against corruption within government. Under the theme of “Mechanize, Modernize and Grow the Economy Towards Vision 2030”, the conference provided a sober assessment of the difficulties and the need for renewed energy and focus on social reconstruction.
Mnangagwa opened and closed the conference with major policy addresses. The president emphasized the need to build upon the re-introduction of a national currency and the intensification of attracting foreign investment in key industries such as agriculture, information technology and mining.
In relationship to the overall focus of the NPC, ZANU-PF Publicity Secretary Simon Khaya Moyo noted: “The agenda and program were followed with strict discipline and seriousness of purpose, so were the thematic discussions in various committees and the resolutions which ensued and were unanimously passed by the conference. It was indeed a milestone conference reflective of a people’s party as evidenced by the discipline and enthusiasm of delegates from all the 10 provinces.”
Political decisions related to the next general elections scheduled for 2023 were also discussed and agreed upon. Mnangagwa was selected to be the sole presidential candidate for the party in four years and the conference set as its goal to obtain five million votes for its leader. Making a firm decision about the 2023 elections was viewed by NPC delegates as essential in guiding the country in its “re-engagement” approach with other states. The party believes that stability is essential in building the national economy internally and with the eliminating uncertainty about the political future of Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa spoke to the seriousness of the contemporary period for the ruling party, stressing: “These conferences are not talking shows. We must deliver on our promises. To this we must remain focused, united and guided by our party constitution. We have reached the end of this conference. This conference is the biggest conference of any political party that may come into your mind, if there is any, please tell me. I exhort you to be vigilant in the coming year and going forward. Keep your eyes and ears open.”
Western Economic Sanctions and the Imperatives of Regional Development
The leading impediment for economic reconstruction and social stability is the ongoing imposition of draconian sanctions by the western imperialist states. Despite the monumental efforts by the ZANU-PF government under Mnangagwa to re-engage with the capitalist nations, sanctions remain in force.
Consequently, unemployment remains astronomically high and the value of the re-introduced national currency is subject to fluctuations in actual value. Until the sanctions are lifted particularly by the former colonial power of Britain and the United States, there is the potential for further fiscal problems including shortages of consumer goods and inflationary pressures in the energy sector.
Just two months prior to the NPC, the entire SADC region was mobilized in their demand for the immediate lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe. A Day of Action for the lifting of sanctions during October, which was endorsed by all member-states in the SADC region, illustrated the unity of purpose in solidarity with Zimbabwe.
As a follow-up measure taken just days after the ZANU-PF NPC on December 15, a regional meeting in Swakopmund, Republic of Namibia, discussed again in detail, the imperatives of removing economic sanctions on Zimbabwe. This gathering of the SADC 46th Plenary Assembly of the Parliamentary Forum, stressed the economic impact of sanctions on both the people of Zimbabwe and the entire region.
A motion submitted by Angolan parliamentarian Josefina Perpetua Diakite and seconded by representatives from Malawi, noted the role of sanctions as a major roadblock in the implementation of sustainable development goals including universal health coverage set for 2030. The program has set as its objectives the raising of national incomes through enhanced regional industrialization and self-sufficiency in agricultural production.
The Angolan parliamentary representative said that sanctions are stifling “people’s livelihoods, economic development and access to health, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable populations, including young girls, women, children, the disabled and the elderly. The economic sanctions are a violation of the human, economic and social rights of the people of Zimbabwe and have a negative impact on the government’s efforts to leverage the economy and boost the living standards of the Zimbabwean people.”
In seconding the motion, Malawian Member of Parliament Dennis Namachekecha, stressed the regional manifestations of western imperialist policies towards Harare, saying: “The sanctions are undermining Zimbabwe’s efforts to attract investment and the country’s ability to realize its national, regional and international development is also curtailed. We are each other’s keeper and we cannot ignore the pain that the people of Zimbabwe are enduring. This motion requires that we unite just as we united against colonialism and the apartheid regime of South Africa to speak with one voice against the continued unjustified sanctions. Today it is Zimbabwe. Tomorrow it can be any member of SADC.”
U.S. Foreign Policy Maintains Leading Imperialist Role Internationally
Sanctions against Zimbabwe have been renewed by successive U.S. administrations both Democratic and Republican. Such a foreign policy posture illustrates clearly the role of Washington in the continuing national oppression, economic exploitation and consequent underdevelopment of the African continent.
These sanctions are an act of war. They are designed to influence the political character of the Zimbabwean state through the deliberate attempts to overthrow the ZANU-PF government utilizing economic pressure specifically designed to turn the masses away from their elected administration.
At the same above-mentioned 46th Plenary Assembly of the Parliamentary Forum in Namibia, the Republic of South Africa Parliamentary Speaker Thandi Modise emphasized that her government stands in solidarity with Zimbabwe, emphasizing that: “We do so because we understand that without South Africa standing up with other neighbors, the economic progress of the region will be retarded. The issues of child mortality and hunger would continue to besiege the region. This is not Zimbabwe’s problem. This is a regional problem. We stand behind you. We call for the removal of these sanctions. We want Zimbabwe to be able to enjoy her mineral wealth, to go back to being the food basket of our region and to walk tall amongst the countries of Africa.”
Anti-imperialist forces in the West and throughout the international community should adopt the principles enunciated by the SADC member-states. The U.S., Britain and the European Union (EU) have no right to impose this economic war on Zimbabwe and the Southern Africa region. All of these western powers must be held responsible for their role in maintaining neo-colonialism in Africa.
Solidarity with Zimbabwe and the SADC is an important aspect of the contemporary struggle against western arrogance and domination of the peoples of the world. The interests of the working class and nationally oppressed in the imperialist countries are inextricably linked to the realization of the total liberation of Africa and its people.