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With Integration Afoot, Southern African Heads Face Zimbabwe Dilemma

Southern African leaders face pressure from the West to isolate Zimbabwe as they move along the path to economic integration, pending political and economic reforms in Harare, but Southern African Development Community heads of state didn't seem inclined to heed this call at an extraordinary summit in South Africa this week.

Some argue, moreover, that the regional integration process could have a moderating effect on Harare's economic policies by providing a convenient rationale for reform.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe joined his Botswana and Swaziland peers on Monday in signing a finance and investment protocol that is one of the building blocks of the economic union envisioned for Africa's southern tier of countries.

Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, now SADC chairman, said the region should be considered in its totality, "instead of the outside world singling out the one member and saying because of member X we will not invest in SADC."

Economist Eric Bloch of Bulawayo told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele that Zimbabwe has alienated Western governments, institutions and investors, so its regional partners are not entirely pleased to be its partner in a regional financial arrangement. But the regional protocol could also have a beneficial effect on Harare's own policies.

More reports From VOA's Studio 7 For Zimbabwe...