THE threat of an all-out civil war in neighbouring Mozambique poses serious economic consequences for Zimbabwe, which seems to enjoy no peace for long spells. Indeed for Zimbabwe, the definition of peace as being the very brief interlude between wars could not be more apt.
The economic history of Zimbabwe is entangled with conflict within and outside its borders. As a brief reminder, the kettle-shaped country has been boiling in conflict for the best part of the last half century. Firstly, there were the acts of economic sabotage against the settler regime which began around 1961. Destabilisation of the economy had roots there.
Not to be forgotten are the labour unrests which had their roots in the early 1940s, escalating in the 1950s where persons such as the late Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo rose through the ranks of the railway workers union until these movements transformed into political organisations such as the Southern Rhodesian African National Council. Political destabilisation of the economy began then. But the worst was yet to come. The incipient stage of armed conflict were the petrol bomb attacks of early 1960s. Armed conflict using modern weaponry then took over in 1962 starting with the Sidube Ranch attack. The famous battle of Chinhoyi in 1966 then marked a turning point in armed conflict. So, really the economy was already under siege, although full scale warfare was to begin in the early 1970s, reaching fever pitch towards the end of the 1970s and ending with Independence in in 1980. During most of this period, Mozambique, Zimbabwe's lifeline, was in conflicts of its own, making it ever difficult for Zimbabwe to access its nearest route to sea, Beira, some 500km-odd from Harare.
Re-routing Zimbabwe's imports and exports via Durban, South Arfrica, more than 1 500km away from Harare, only increased trading costs for this land-locked country. But this had become necessary because conflicts in Mozambique, first the Frelimo-led armed struggle against colonialism and later the Mozambique National Resistance Movement, or Renamo, made it virtually impossible for goods to traverse Mozambique. Barely two years into Independence Zimbabwe began its own internal armed conflict in the form of Gukurahundi. This it did parallel to supporting the Frelimo government of Mozambique.
But Zimbabwe's economy could hardly afford any of those conflicts, in spite of the political imperatives. When peace finally came to Mozambique in 1992, all looked set for Zimbabwe's economy and that of Mozambique to start growing again. However Zimbabwe was soon involved in another military conflict, this time in the DRC, under the auspices of Sadc. When Zimbabwe finally pulled out of the DRC conflict around 2003 there was a golden opportunity to regain ground. However, this was not to be. Internal economic conflict in the form of the land reform programme and ongoing indigenisatiion programme took centre stage. Following the re-igntion of the Frelimo-Renamo conflict, Zimbabwe has been sabre-rattling against Renamo. But can we afford it, especially given how much further down the economy has declined?