Zimbabwe, which has for long been the sick man of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), is holding back the region from forming a formidable economic bloc. The perennial political paralysis, economic collapse, decaying infrastructure and corruption, especially by the ruling elites who enjoy impunity, makes Zimbabwe the most difficult country to live in throughout SADC. Lack of political will to decisively deal with corruption and ensure State institutions are run professionally and where citizens receive public goods from State has seen more than half the population of Zimbabwe resorting to crossing the borders to buy supplies or to seek formal and informal jobs to feed their families back home.
By Farai Maguwu
Because of the push factors in Zimbabwe, SADC countries have slowed down on regional integration fearing an influx of Zimbabweans if they open their borders. The ruling ZANU PF has refused to acknowledge the country is in crisis and has refused to receive help from regional leaders who on many occasions have tried to find a workable solution to the crisis. Back in 2007, the late Zambian President Levi Mwanawasa said SADC must change it’s approach to Zimbabwe which he likened to a sinking titanic ‘whose passengers are jumping out in a bid to save their lives.’ No country is ready to receive these desperate ‘passengers’.
Zimbabwe is situated right at the heart of SADC and provides the easiest route to the continent’s economic powerhouse, South Africa. If all things worked well, Zimbabwe would be the transit route of choice linking South Africa to the rest of Africa. However nothing demonstrate SADC’s frustration with Zimbabwe than the recently completed Kazungula Rail-Road Bridge and One Stop Border Post between Botswana and Zambia. The bridge and one stop border post will ensure truckers can now bypass Zimbabwe and enter South Africa through Botswana – which is a longer but more convenient route owing to the bottlenecks experienced in Zimbabwe. It is rumoured truck drivers and companies complained of poor road infrastructure, high toll fees, corruption by Police and poor services at Beitbridge where officials on the Zim side are said to be rude. No one can dispute that argument as Zimbabwean government officials always behave as if the world owe them something.
The Beitbridge Chirundu Highway has had many false starts in the past due to corruption by ZIm government officials and is now progressing at a snail’s pace. The cost of construction has often been inflated. It may take a decade or more for the 864Km stretch to be completed. I did an analysis of the corruption associated with the highway in 2018.
Despite being endowed with vast natural capital, Zimbabwe has the worst road infrastructure in the entire SADC region. In February 2021 President Mnangagwa declared Zimbabwe’s rural and urban roads a State of Disaster. There is simply no excuse for the sorry state of Zim roads.
Often sanctions by western countries have been decried as the cause of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis. I contend that the bypassing of Zimbabwe by SADC countries through Kazungula may be a form of very smart sanctions by our very own who are tired of engaging a neighbor on a suicide mission. At long last SADC may be finding ways to move ahead with regional integration minus Zimbabwe – a country that has perfected the politics of self destruction. They say Actions Speaks Louder Than Words. But without addressing the fundamental political crisis in Zimbabwe will this economic isolation address the Zimbabwe crisis. Will it stop Zimbabwean citizens from jumping off the sinking titanic to regional neighbors to save their lives?