Zimbabwe: Diplomacy On Zimbabwe Can Remain Quiet – but It Must Get Tough:

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Left: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Centre: European Union flags. Right: Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. analysis By Roger Southall,Cries of moral outrage have greeted the brutal crackdown by the Zimbabwean security forces on nationwide protests sparked by a sudden, massive, government-ordained hike in the price of fuel. Naturally enough, the demand is that “something must be done” to stop the brutality. Twelve people have already died, hundreds have been injured and there have been mass round ups. In South Africa, demands that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government should take firm action are fuelled by two factors. The presence of a large Zimbabwean migrant community within the country is one. The second is a widespread sense that Pretoria’s policy towards its errant neighbour has always been one of light wrist-tapping rather than a vigorous twisting of arms. Inter-liberation movement solidarity is widely said to have strangled serious South African criticisms of Zimbabwean governments. This “quiet diplomacy” has been regularly dismissed as a strategy of doing nothing. If South Africa got serious, say the critics, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime would have to comply with its demands. Democracy in Zimbabwe could be given a real chance. Many South Africans are concerned by the position Ramaphosa has taken towards the present crisis. South Africa is reported to have turned down a request from Zimbabwe for a loan of US$1.2 billion to ease its desperate foreign currency shortage. Yet Ramaphosa was vocal at the recent meeting of global leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos in calling for an end to sanctions. He argued that these were damaging Zimbabwe’s prospects of economic recovery. Ramaphosa’s call for an end to sanctions clearly reflects his government’s view that it cannot afford a collapse of the Zimbabwean economy. Zimbabwe remains a site for South African investment and a significant market for South African goods. This is despite the huge difficulties South African firms have in getting profits out of Zimbabwe . Meanwhile, best estimates suggest that South Africa already hosts up to two million Zimbabweans, though the exact number isn’t known. Any further decline of an already shattered Zimbabwean economy could send many more Zimbabwean migrants across the border, adding to the already huge pool of unemployed in South Africa. There are thus very real reasons for the South African position, even if the motivation is self-interested. Yet would it help the cause of Zimbabwean democracy and human rights if the European Union and US were to now bring “sanctions” to an end? In reality, the answer is extraordinarily complicated. The thorny subject of sanctions Successive Zimbabwean governments have long been dismissive of efforts from outside the country to effect political change. President Robert Mugabe routinely insisted that sanctions and other policies designed to isolate Zimbabwe were intended to bring abo
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