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'Persuasion', Zimbabwe's foreign policy thrust

13 Oct 2019 at 06:37hrs | Views
Besides being a journalist, I am also a literature student. As much as I am attracted to contemporary literature, I am equally an avid reader of old English literature in the tradition of Virginia Wolf, Charles Dickens, John Keats, Thomas Hardy, Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen.

I like Jane Austen â€" particularly the fact that she represents the old English literature tradition that is always looking ahead towards a new existence.

"Persuasion", published posthumously in 1818, is among my all-time greats.

A story is told that on 8 August 1815, English newspapers took note of the departure to Saint Helena of HMS Northumberland and, with it, a prisoner. Napoleon Bonaparte, whose army had been defeated at Waterloo.

The former French Emperor was to spend the remainder of his life incarcerated on that tiny South Atlantic island. He died there in 1821, almost unremarked. But, even before his death, Napoleon had become a has-been; a relic of a bygone era.

On the same day that her contemporaries learned of Bonaparte's journey into exile, Jane Austen started writing "Persuasion", which was to be her last completed work, and the one which Virginia Wolf was to remark as a novel that typifies a journey of self-discovery.

While it might sound incongruent to an ordinary eye, many parallels can be drawn from the current transitional period in Zimbabwe with what is depicted in "Persuasion".

The heroine in "Persuasion", Anne Elliot is 27 years, an age regarded as old enough to have sex appeal â€" if we are to use the idiom of the time. Zimbabwe â€" at 39 years, is in terms of growth very ripe to chart her own course without the tutelage of a guardian.

Just like Jane Austen then, the Zimbabwe of today has managed to internalise the lessons of prudence and self-restraint. Like the heroine in "Persuasion", Zimbabwe has outlived the age of emotional psychological tumult. We are now looking ahead to a new social vista.

The character of our current foreign policy is telling in terms of the trajectory that the country has embarked on.

Just like in "Persuasion" our country takes interest in modern ways of conducting foreign policy; only looking backwards in order to review our steps, but conscious of the fact that there cannot be any change without the practice of leave-taking that people use to put the past behind.

The questions that arise in Zimbabwe today are the same as those reflected in "Persuasion".

How can the past be recalled and memories kept alive without disturbing the domestic cosmos?

How can people keep faith with their memories, but remain true to their past without isolating themselves from the dynamism of historical change?

We need to preserve and recalibrate our national memory in order to have a clear view of where we want to go as a country.

In the aftermath of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's foreign policy is anchored on re-engagement â€" a deliberate reach-out initiative meant to unlock foreign direct investment, mend sour relations, re-integrate the country into the community of nations and solidify relations with longtime allies.

President Mnangagwa is the begetter of our foreign policy, which is predicated on economics rather than politics.

It is a foreign policy much informed by domestic subtleties just as it is also shaped by international political, social, economic and cultural dynamics.

The intonation of the "Zimbabwe  is Open for Business" is a strategy that settles well with the international community and an assurance to the West about Zimbabwe's willingness to break from a past characterised by open hostilities.

Under President Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe's foreign policy is a combination of pragmatism, realism and neo-liberalism. But, some of the ideological thrusts have no permanence beyond the attainment of the desired goals.

In terms of change, Zimbabwe acknowledges the centrality of Western countries such as Britain, the US and counties of the European Union. Zimbabwe is mindful of the need for new alliances, new investment partners and the need to re-integrated into the global society.

Foreign policy is about actions, reactions and interactions to situations, events, issues, demands and pressures from the international arena.

Zimbabwe's foreign policy is intended to move away from isolationism and belligerence towards the West to a policy of re-engagement.

At every enduring epoch, a country must be able to define its national purpose.

The overriding national purpose that currently obsess foreign policy drivers is to extricate the country from more than two decades of economic quagmire and this is precisely the reason why there is an affix of international trade attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This is why each ambassador has been given a template of deliverables â€" create friendships, generate foreign direct investments, explore markets for our products, quantify the tourists you have managed to bring to Zimbabwe and identify appropriate technology for use back home.

The matrix consists of what is called the concentric paradigm of three circles with the inner circle being the ideas on economy, surrounded by the society and the bigger outer circle consisting of the ecological environment.

Attaining the set goals is not an overnight event. However, no one doubts that a lot of work has been done. We need to remain rooted to the constancy of our founding ethos even during times of global economic turbulence.

Just like "Persuasion", which was written towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Zimbabwe is writing its own story following the end of an old dispensation.

Zimbabwe resembles a woman who has no choice, but to remain faithful to her past. She has the vigour and hope to move forward into a future where new realities of existence are to be born.


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