Geopolitical wars trigger Zambia, Zimbabwe fallout


Zimbabwean president Emerson Mnangagwa (left) with his Zambian counterpart Hakainde Hichilema

Southern Africa Bureaus
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – THE raging geopolitical tensions, featuring Russia and the Western world, are threatening the longstanding diplomatic ties between neighbouring Zambia and Zimbabwe.

This also mirrors the desperation for aid from abroad by African governments.

This is the second time in as many years that these above-mentioned two Southern African countries have fallen out.

These nations have a long history of friendly ties and were some time during the colonial era (alongside Malawi) under the same government but have taken divergent paths as Russia and the West enhance their influence on Africa.

Zambia has aligned itself with the West, especially since President Haikande Hichilema and the United Party for National Development (UPND) came to power in 2021.

Zimbabwe’s ties with the West have been conflict-ridden since the turn of the millennium when Zimbabwe reclaimed its land from the white minority to correct the colonial imbalances, a development which saw the West accuse the government of human rights violations and slapped leaders with sanctions.

Subsequently Zimbabwe has sought ties with Asia and Russia.

Both are former British colonies and relied on Russian assistance to fight colonialism.

This past week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa was in Russia to solidify those relations. This is the source of the last friction between the two Southern African countries.

The diplomatic rift emanates from sentiments attributed to Zimbabwe president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, during his visit to Russia where is quoted as criticizing Zambia’s growing ties with the West, as he met President Vladimir Putin.

“The West has begun consolidating their power in Zambia,” Mnangagwa is quoted in the video.

“The Americans are consolidating their power in that country, in terms of security and financial support to Zambia, to make sure that we feel lonely. But that does not change us because we have taken a course as a people .. that we want to be independent and choose our friends ourselves.”

He is quoted as appealing for support from Russia in terms of defence and food security.

“We can’t go to the West. We have to come here because the West would want to see us down. They support our neighbours Zambia and Malawi very heavily. Zimbabwe’s economy is the fastest growing in the region in spite of us being isolated by the Americans.”

This has sparked anger in Zambia.

Joseph Kalimbwe of the ruling UPND is the most outspoken on the issue.

“We must expel the Zimbabwean Ambassador out of Lusaka as soon as possible. We are sick and tired of provocations from Zimbabwe,” Kalimbwe said.

He also wants Zambia to boycott the upcoming summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that Zimbabwe will host.

“It’s an undiplomatic for a SADC president to call another president in such divisive ways. Zimbabwe must stop provoking our country,” the politician said.

The reactions from Zimbabwe have been strong, with an organisation aligned to the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) labeling Hichilema as a “USA project.”

George Charamba, the presidential spokesman is quoted, “We’ve tolerated nonsense long enough. The wise will look at the Russia-Ukraine conflict and extract valuable lessons before it’s too late.”

A statement attributed to him added, “We have been great neighbours, but as things change we will adjust accordingly for the sake of territorial integrity and national interest.”

Obert Mpofu, ZANU-PF Secretary General, appeared to accuse Zambia of bad neighbourliness.

“When your neighbour canoodles with the same person responsible for your plight, then it leaves you with no choice but to call them out for such unneighbourly conduct. In President Mnangagwa, we are well-led,” Mpofu said.

Zambia’s allowing the United States to establish, in 2021, its Africa Command (AFRICOM) base is said to be a cause for concern to SADC.

It is responsible for US military operations and maintaining military relations with African nations.

Emmanuel Mwamba, spokesperson of the Zambia opposition, Patriotic Front (PF), argued the recent appeal by Zimbabwe to Russia for security support, especially in light of the support the USA, its allies and institutions were giving Zambia, appeared to be legitimate, in the face of geopolitics and security threats playing out in the SADC region.

“This recent development has to be handled with diplomatic care as the tensions have been brewing for the last three years,” Mwamba said.

Last year, there was a war of words between Zambia and Zimbabwe after the latter held elections, whose conduct SADC criticised.

Zambia led the SADC election observer mission.

At his inauguration, Mnangagwa invited SADC leaders, including Hichilema, especially that Zambia was Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics Defence and Security.

Hichilema skipped the invitation but delegated Foreign Affairs Minister, Stanley Kakubo, to attend.

– CAJ News

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