Evolving Regional Isolation! [opinion] (allAfrica.com)

IN the last two years, the region has experienced multiple political leadership transitions, all of which have implications on Zimbabwean politics. We have witnessed leadership changes in Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique and Lesotho over this period.
There is a lot of contrasts and disparities in how regional politics is playing out. President Robert Mugabe remains the most senior leader in the region, given the multiple leadership transitions that have taken place elsewhere in the region.
He therefore has to balance his current political standing in the region, and that of Zimbabwe, against a fast-evolving regional body politic.
Despite all the weariness and the heavy travel schedule that President Mugabe has had in the past few weeks, it would have been political suicide to miss last week’s inauguration of Hage Geingob of Namibia.
President Mugabe had earlier missed the inauguration of Filipe Nyusi in Mozambique and Pakalitha Mosisili in Lesotho due to his travel itinerary and his long rest from duty earlier in the year.
He had to take the trip to Namibia at all costs; even if it meant the “two- hour” sleep he mentioned he had between this Namibian trip and his next local engagement at the centennial celebrations at his former school, Kutama College in Zvimba.
As much as many see President Mugabe as taking leadership of the region, that may only be pageantry, otherwise he is having to play “catch up” with regional dynamics. Going to Namibia was about ensuring he keeps up with good friends who are otherwise slipping away.
He had to show up to cement the relationship, which like all others in the region, is threatened by Zimbabwe’s declining relevance on key regional priorities.
Zimbabwe’s historical foothold in the regional has rather been more on the political legacy of the country and its nexus to the liberation struggle and its projected anti neo-colonial stance, which at one point were the sole progeny and priority of the region.
Over time the region has been transforming, not by way of delegating this liberation ethos, but by upgrading other equally imperative issues to the same pedestal as this historical domain.
If we consider countries such as Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Angola; they have been heavily focused in building their economies, after the slump that followed their immediate post-independence dispensations.
Others allude to the over exertion of neo-colonial interests as the reason why most of them faced this immediate post-independence lull in their economic well-being.
Whatever reasons are proffered for the post-independence economic depression in most regional countries, the countries stated above have gone a full cycle and have of late reached a point of their “post-independence economic reawakening”.
They have reformed their macro-economic environment through projected investor attraction, streamlined their policies to support economic growth, prioritised resource allocation to stimulate growth as well as aligned their politics to subsume the economic recovery of their once depleted and reprehensible economies.
Except for Angola, out of this “post-independence economic reawakening” has come their smooth political transitions, which have all been premised on finding a balance between political progression and economic recovery and growth.
Over the past few years, these countries have ceased to be drowned in the game of disparaging politics, which at times focusses mainly on “point-scoring” without cumulative livelihood benefits to the citizenry and wider national economic interests.
They have rather maintained a robust and intact political framework, which however, allows economic growth and politics, to co-exist within the same arena.
Zimbabwe has however, remained pre-historic, preferring to sustain its anchorage in an imbalance, which advances the politics-of-the-day without delivering food on the tables of its people.
Zimbabwe has remained defiant, to what each regional country is striving for; progressive politics that benefits the citizens and the economy.
When regional citizens cheer for our President at regional meetings, as has been the case at the swearing-in ceremonies for Hage Geingob in 2015, Jacob Zuma (South African President) in 2014, and Peter Mutharika (Malawian President) in 2014; at times we forget to capture the reality of those moments.
President Mugabe is celebrated as a historic icon, given his legacy in fighting colonialism and his dispensed distaste for neo-colonialism in Africa.
That decoration is a worthy “feather in the cap” of the President, and is undoubted.
Those ululations are, however, not an endorsement of where Zimbabwe currently finds itself in the region nor an admiration of Zimbabwe’s current political profile, which has subdued the economy.
Many in the media circles miss the point and paint an absolutist picture of regional citizens’ endorsement of the total profile of the President and Zimbabwe’s politics.
It is such self-blinding misreading of the regional context that brings about false satisfaction that Zimbabwe is on the right path, but otherwise keeps us on the periphery of what is aspired; total national progress.
Going forward, Zimbabwe’s regional relations could deteriorate.
The country finds itself misplaced in terms of where its priorities lie and where those of the region are progressing towards.
While Zimbabwe remains stuck in the era of politics-of-the-past, that stagnates the economy, other regional countries are attempting to find a hybrid of progressive politics and aspired national economic recovery and growth.
Zimbabwe’s leadership of the Southern African Development Community will progressively become ceremonial, but without clout to be taken seriously by other regional members, simply because we can’t offer the leadership that takes the region towards its destiny, but remains more anchored in its past.
Zimbabwe will lose that regional centrality that it has always enjoyed, and will seize proffering direction to where and what the region should move towards.
The country’s political and economic currency, will continue to slump in the region.
The danger is, Zimbabweans have always been in self-deception, assuming that the country has regional leadership as a permanent inheritance.
We have always felt the region would wait for Zimbabwe to come right, before the entire territory can move forward.
That unfortunately is prehistoric theory, as each country in the region will seek to prioritise the co-existence of political and economic progress, which to Zimbabwe currently seems merely hypothetical.
The challenge for Zimbabwe is that; this new “post-independence economic reawakening”, which many regional countries are pursing, is not an isolated phenomena.
It is not an undertaking of a few countries only, and neither is it a dormant process; more and more countries are joining this bandwagon. As that happens, most regional countries will belong to one side, with Zimbabwe solely still guarding its extraneous corner.
Zimbabwe has always been concerned about its isolation from the international political economy, due to its own skewed politics as well as the inferred neo-colonial interests of former colonies.
The game is, however, changing and Zimbabwe may now find itself isolated in the region, even by those comrades who once shared this corner that we remain stuck in.
Source: Politics