Zambia reports Zimbabwe to AU over Russia lamentations

Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe. 

Photo credit: File | Reuters

What you need to know:

  • The dispute between the two countries escalated early this month.
  • Zimbabwe has been accusing its neighbour of sponsoring the local opposition.

Zambia has accused Zimbabwe of attacking its sovereignty in an escalation of a diplomatic tiff between the two neighbours, which had been simmering for some time.

The dispute between the two countries escalated early this month after a video of Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa complaining to Russian leader Vladmir Putin about Zambia’s relationship with Western countries was released by Moscow.

President Mnangagwa was attending the St Petersburg International Economic Forum where he accused the US of developing military and economic ties with Zambia as a way of isolating Zimbabwe.

He asked for President Putin’s support, particularly in the area of defence and security as well as food security.

Mediation process

Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mulambo Haimbe told that country’s Parliament on Thursday that Lusaka was seeking help from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union (AU) to deal with the dispute “decisively and conclusively.” 

“We wish to reiterate that as a sovereign state we have no interest in moving away from our warm relations with either Zimbabwe, Russia or indeed our western partners nor do we have any desire to pitch one against the other,” Mr Haimbe said.

“We are alive to the fact that we as members of the wider global community and that in both the regional and continental contexts there is need to find a lasting solution to the matters in issue through an appropriate mediation process, which should result in measurable outcomes.

“It is in this context that we have sought the regional bodies’ urgent and immediate intervention in relation to the present and any other matters in seeming contention between Zimbabwe and ourselves.” 

Unwarranted attack

He said President Mnangagwa’s sentiments “do not appear to accord with the warm relations” between the two countries.

“Having verified the veracity of the video through diplomatic channels, the government is gravely concerned with its contents, which we consider an unwarranted attack on Zambia’s sovereignty,” Mr Haimbe added.

“The peoples of Zambia and Zimbabwe have always enjoyed warm relations from pre-colonial times such that Zambia provided assistance including military support to the Zimbabwean liberation struggle and allowed our brothers and sisters in the struggle to operate from Zambia.”

Zimbabwe has been accusing its neighbour of sponsoring the local opposition since Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema assumed power in 2021.

Disputed re-election

The row deepened after President Mnangagwa’s disputed re-election in August last year when a SADC observer mission headed by former Zambian Vice President Nevers Mumba concluded that the polls did not meet regional and international standards. 

At the time SADC was forced to issue a statement condemning attacks by Zimbabwe targeted at President Hichilema.

President Mnangagwa was declared winner of the polls with 52.6 percent of the vote, but the result was dismissed as a “gigantic fraud” by his main rival Nelson Chamisa, who  refused to recognise 81 year-old ruler’s victory.

Zimbabwean government officials routinely attack President Hichilema whom they accuse of being a puppet of western countries and claim that he is being used to mobilise against ruling liberation movements in the region.