International Relations

International Relations


Relations with neighbouring countries


Zimbabwe has maintained cordial and historical political and economic relations forged during the period of the struggle against colonialism in the 1960s and 1970s, and apartheid in the 1980s, with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. Some ties are closer than others. Of all countries in SADC, countries such as Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania wield greater influence on politics in the country. Both Angola and Namibia are Zimbabwe’s closest military allies in the region. Between 1980 and 1990, Zimbabwe militarily supported the FRELIMO government in Mozambique against the apartheid-sponsored RENAMO. Furthermore, between 1998 and 2002, Zimbabwe also fought in the Congo War alongside Angola and Namibia to defend the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) against a Rwandan and Ugandan-sponsored invasion. Zimbabwe’s missions in SADC and other African countries, play a vital role in mobilising moral and diplomatic support for Zimbabwe within SADC, the African Union and other international organisation such the African Carribean and Pacific countries (ACP) (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007). Even though it is not a member of the Southern African Customs Union, (SACU), Zimbabwe is South Africa’s largest trading partner in the whole of SADC. By extension, South Africa has greater economic influence over Zimbabwe.


Zimbabwe maintains diplomatic relations with virtually every African country, although some ties are closer than others. The country maintains embassies and (until its departure from the Commonwealth-some High Commissions) in the following African countries: Angola, Algeria, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Libya, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Swaziland, South Africa, and Zambia. The country also maintains embassies in the following regions: Western Europe (Britain, Belgium, Denmark (closed since 2002) France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Serbia, Switzerland, and Sweden); Americas and the Caribbean (Brazil, Cuba, Canada, United States); Asia and Australasia (China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, New Zealand and Australia);Middle East (Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia).


Historically, Zimbabwe`s closest links have been with its former colonial power Britain. However, the past decade has witnessed a shift in this relationship with the Zimbabwean government accusing Britain of failing to provide money for land reform as agreed under the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979. Despite the strained political relations, many Zimbabweans continue to live, work and study in Britain on a private basis. While other Western European countries have ties with Zimbabwe, its relations with the countries have also soured in recent years.


Following strained relations with the EU, the government of Zimbabwe has adopted a "look east" policy which led to the deepening of the already existing political and diplomatic relations with East Asian countries such as Malaysia and China. Thus, in order to defend its interests and its position at the global or international level, Zimbabwe has come to rely on its diplomatic missions in the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific regions. Owing to their immense economic and diplomatic clout in their respective regions as well as internationally, countries such as Kuwait, Iran, China, Malaysia and India play a pivotal role in Zimbabwe’s foreign policy (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2007).


Membership and role in organizations


Since independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has enunciated and followed a policy of ‘active non-alignment’ which means that Zimbabwe usually adheres to positions established by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); the Organization of African Unity (now African Union – AU); or the Group of 77 + China. As chair of the Frontline States in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe not only campaigned vigorously against South Africa’s illegal occupation of Namibia and apartheid in South Africa but also used its position in the Commonwealth and other bodies to call for the imposition of economic sanctions against the apartheid regime. In November 1982, Zimbabwe was chosen by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to hold one of the non-permanent seats in the UN Security Council for two years. This helped the country build an international profile and bolstered its experience in international relations. In 1986, Zimbabwe chaired the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit meeting in Harare, thus giving the country added international visibility and direct responsibility in dealing with issues such as the liberation of Namibia and the eradication of apartheid in SA.


As a member of the UN, Zimbabwe started playing a role in UN peacekeeping missions in 1991 when the country was requested to contribute troops to the peacekeeping mission in Angola (United Nations Department of Public Information, 30 June 1997). Currently, Zimbabwe has peacekeepers in Sudan, Kosovo, East Timor, Cote d`Ivoire and Burundi (Zimbabwe Herald, 23 May 2007[JSH1] ). Since 1995, Zimbabwe has played a leading role in training peacekeepers in SADC and hosts the Regional Peacekeeping Training Center (RPTC[JSH2] ) on behalf of the regional organ (Nyambuya, 1998; Phiri, 2006). In May 2007, Zimbabwe was elected Chairman of the 16th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD -16) (Available at:[JSH3]


International treaties and conventions signed


Zimbabwe is a party to several UN treaties. These include:



Zimbabwe is signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court but has not as yet acceded to it.


As a member of the African Union (AU) Zimbabwe has ratified or signed protocols and treaties under the Constitutive Act of the AU such as:



The country is a member of many international organizations, including the United Nations (UN); International Monetary Fund (IMF); [JSH4] African Development Bank (ADB); Southern African Development Community (SADC); Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa (PTA); Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries (ACP) in association with EU; Group of 77 and China (G-77+ China); Group of 15 (G-15); Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); African Union (AU); and the Customs Cooperation Council (CCC). Several international organizations are represented in Zimbabwe, including the regional offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children and Education Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), World Food Programme (WFP) the European Union (EU), and other multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank. Zimbabwe ceased to be a member of the Commonwealth on 7 December 2003.


Zimbabwe is party to several international agreements on: Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (1991), International Convention relating to economic statistics, (1998) Securing Space for Peace Parks, (August 2003), International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (2002), Convention Concerning The Protection of The World Cultural and Natural Heritage; Preferential Trade Area Treaty (PTA); Lome Convention; World Heritage Convention; International Conventions on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES); and the Agreement on the Action Plan for the Environmentally Sound Management of the Zambezi River System (ZACPPLAN).


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