Coming to Terms: Zimbabwe in the International Arena. (Reviews)

By Williams, Stephen | African Business, January 2002 | Go to article overview

Coming to Terms: Zimbabwe in the International Arena. (Reviews)


Williams, Stephen, African Business


By Richard Schwarts [pounds sterling]39.50 I.B. Tauris

ISBN 1-86064-647-6

This study of Zimbabwe's international relations, from the eve of independence to the mid-1990s, is clearly aimed at an academic readership. For all that, it is also a fascinating account of how a victorious and avowedly Marxist-Leninist liberation movement met the challenge of defining and applying a foreign policy that both reflected its own brand of revolutionary socialism while attempting a pragmatic engagement with the economic world-order of the day.

During an address to the UN General Assembly upon Zimbabwe's admission to the international body, Robert Mugabe, then Prime Minister, outlined five political principals that would guide his country's foreign policy direction. They would be, he asserted: a belief in 'national sovereignty and equality among nations; a dedication to 'the attainment of a socialist, egalitarian and democratic state; a recognition of the right of all peoples to self-determination and independence; non-racialism at home and abroad; and positive non-alignment and peaceful co-existence among countries with different socio-economic systems.

The author then sets about an analysis of Zimbabwe's foreign policy in a series of chapters that begins with an examination of Zimbabwe's economic and political legacy which, not surprisingly, reflected the network of support received during the liberation war. This is followed by an analysis of the constraints that faced Zimbabwe upon independence, primarily the need to interact with the world market - a constraint faced by practically all developing countries.

Foreign policy details

Foreign policy, the author claims, is formulated in Zimbabwe as the primarily responsibility of the head of state with the foreign minister providing commentary and the foreign ministry supplying the functionaries. Putting flesh on the bone, the author then sets the sequence that Zimbabwe established diplomatic relations, and a geographical profile of sources of economic assistance.

In the remaining six chapters, specific relationships are covered in greater detail. These are Zimbabwe within the southern African region, specifically South Africa and Mozambique; Zimbabwe and Britain; Zimbabwe and the major powers - then the US, USSR and China; Zimbabwe and Europe - where three case studies are made of relations with France, Romania, and Sweden (the later one of ZANU-PF's few active Western supporters during the liberation struggle); and Zimbabwe's foreign policy position regarding the Middle East which the author chooses to view through the 'prism' of three specific conflicts, Israel/Palestine, Iran/Iraq and Iraq/Kuwait.

The concluding chapter is concerned with Zimbabwe's interaction with the OAU, the UN and the Commonwealth.

Throughout the book the author makes continual reference to the previous works of Ibbu Mandaza and Hasu Pate1. Both were involved as members of ZANU-PF in the struggle for independence and in the author's words 'provide an underlay to the thesis. ...an insider's view, though not uncritical, of Zimbabwe's government policy'.

Footnotes to each chapter also indicate the author's reliance on, and frequent quotations of, press statements and official transcripts provided by Zimbabwe's Ministry of Information. A lengthy bibliography, including newspapers and magazines (African Business is included) is also provided. …

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