The recent rants by South Africa’s Health Minister for Limpopo Province Dr Phophi Ramathuba have raised many questions on the relationship between Zimbabwe and South Africa, with the latter now being viewed as pushing for regime change in Zimbabwe to rescue itself from immigration challenges affecting the political grip of the Ruling ANC party.
This past week has seen Zimbabwe taking the spotlight on both regional and global media after a video of a South African Health Official was seen chastising a Zimbabwean woman who had gone to South Africa for treatment after having a car accident in Harare. Ramathuba accused the Zimbabwean national of “killing her health system, “ and told her to go back to President Mnangagwa.
The video fuelled xenophobic sentiments that South Africa citizens have on Zimbabweans who they accuse of stealing their opportunities. It gave opposition politicians some political capital to call for South Africa to intervene in Zimbabwe and solve its political environment. Despite this incident, it is of paramount importance to review the relationship between the two neighboring nations and see how S. A could intervene in Zimbabwe’s politics.
Generally, South Africa and Zimbabwe enjoy cordial relations based on Pan Africanism and respect for national sovereignty. Both countries usually avoid interfering in each others affairs unless invited. This was seen during Thabo Mbeki’s reign when he mediated for the Government Of National Unity to be put in place after the 2008 elections. South Africa has always been involved in observing Zimbabwean elections, and at every turn they endorse the outcome of the elections.
But Zimbabwe is at the centre of South Africa’s immigration problems. Its current economic state has driven the majority of the former’s citizens into the latter’s borders for job opportunities, affordable health care and business opportunities, a development which is fuelling xenophobic sentiments in S. A. So great is the hatred of foreigners in S. A that the situation is now threatening ANCs rule.
It should be appreciated that Zimbabwe is very important to South Africa economically because it is one of its most important trading partner. The country imports 40% of its total imports and exports 75% of its total exports to South Africa. The latter is the biggest beneficiary of the trade as it earns billions of dollars from the trade.
So its silence may be viewed as a deliberate move for it to keep the trade relations tilted to her side. However, the South African media has been on overdrive in painting Zimbabwe with a black brush. Most Zimbabweans access South African media more than they do their local one. So the media takes every opportunity that arises paint Zimbabwe in a bad light while giving opposition politicians and activists the platform to speak without engaging the ruling party to answer.
This has seen the ruling party accusing South African media of being sponsored by the Western countries to effect regime change. South Africa remains on a big dilemma in how it approaches the Zimbabwe issues. Keeping quiet makes it vulnerable to internal rebellion while confronting Zimbabwe makes it violet its stance of non interference.
The way that South Africa will react to pressure being given to it to interfere in Zimbabwe’s affairs will guide how the upcoming 2023 elections.