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Key findings
  • Three-fourths (75%) of Zimbabweans think that people living in Southern Africa should be able to move freely across international borders in order to trade or work in other countries. This is the highest level of support for free movement in the SADC – twice as high as in Namibia and Botswana.
  • Almost half (48%) of Zimbabweans say it is “difficult” or “very difficult” to cross international borders in order to work or trade in other countries. Regionally, Lesotho has the highest proportion of citizens (71%) who report difficulties in crossing borders.
  • Zimbabwe has the highest proportion of advocates for regional intervention in domestic affairs of SADC member states (45%), while majorities in nine SADC countries instead emphasize respect for national sovereignty.
  • Only one in 10 Zimbabweans say the SADC helps their country “a lot” (9%), while twice as many say the SADC “does nothing” (18%). Almost three in 10 (29%) say they don’t know enough about the SADC to evaluate its helpfulness.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) counts among its 15 member states1 the region’s richest country (South Africa) as well as some of its poorest; landlocked as well as island states; and states with some of the largest populations in Africa (the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)) as well as some of the smallest (Seychelles).

As a SADC member, Zimbabwe would expect to benefit from stronger socio-economic and political ties in the region, including free movement of people and goods across international borders and regional assistance in times of need. But regionalization can also create dilemmas for member states, as when issues touch on questions of national sovereignty.

This dispatch uses Afrobarometer Round 6 data from 11 SADC countries to explore Zimbabweans’ views on some aspects of regionalization. Findings show that Zimbabwe leads the region in support for free cross-border movement. Yet almost half of Zimbabweans say they encounter difficulties in crossing international borders. Zimbabweans also express above-average support for states’ role in protecting democracy and human rights in neighbouring countries, although half of citizens still emphasize national sovereignty over such a regional responsibility. Despite relatively strong support for regional integration, only one in 10 Zimbabweans think that the SADC helps their country “a lot.”

Stephen Ndoma

Stephen is the assistant project manager for Southern Africa