Thabo Mbeki – modern Africa’s shame

Robert Mugabe will manage to cling to power. South Africa’s president is one of the people to blame for it.
Mbeki Mugabe quiet diplomacy
Mr. Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy, uncovered? (via Flickr/ This is Zimbabwe – check out their blog!)

A few weeks ago, it looked like June 27th would become the date Zimbabwe’s miserable fate was going to turn around, finally. But now, tomorrow’s election is going to be a farce, a farce staged on the blood-soaked ground of Robert Mugabe’s reckless campaign.

In the past few weeks, Mr. Mugabe’s henchmen have hurt and demoralised the opposition, killing at least 85 and wounding thousands more in severe beatings. As opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has withdrawn from competing, Zimbabwe’s people are left without any real hope and a serious food-crisis ahead. Even though some neighbouring countries have become tougher on Mr. Mugabe and the UK seems keen on pulling all diplomatic strings, the world stands incapable of taking action, once again.

It could have been so easy: Zimbabwe depends heavily on South African energy – an energy embargo would probably have made Mr. Mugabe’s position in his own party, the ZANU-PF untolerably weak, as other senior members are eagerly awaiting their 84-year-old leader’s demise. This, by the way, would have made South Africa the „power of African hope“ we all want it to be, a modern agent for positive change on the continent.

But South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki has screwed it: While his successor Jacob Zuma beefs up his profile by strongly speaking out against Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Mbeki has scrapped the word “diplomacy“ from his “quiet diplomacy“ concerning Zimbabwe. His country not only refused to criticize the neighbouring government’s terror, it also blocked the UN Security Council from condemning Mr. Mugabe’s actions, his diplomats also talked the opposition to stay away from the election and seek negotiations with the ZANU-PF.

Mr. Mbeki’s cocoon for the dictatorship in his neighbouring country may have its reason in historical links between the ANC and the ZANU-PF or in his personal relationship with Mr. Mugabe (another theory is he has been blackmailed), but his inability to act is not unprecedented: He had ignored the violence against refugees in South Africa in May, too, before being forced to speak out against it by the sheer scale of the riots.

I never thought I would have to say this, but even an HIV-denying, gay-hating politician with a dubious sexual life like Mr. Zuma seems to be better fit for being South Africa’s president than the current incumbent. Mr. Mbeki could have made history and help mankind by abandoning Zimbabwe’s aged dictator. Now, it seems, the only favour he will do us is to leave office in 2009.

PS: For the German shame in this story, read this article (in German) and this blog-post.

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