Read this statement from the SA representative in 2006 when South Africa was given a seat on the Security Council: "[we see it as] ... an opportunity to elevate to a global level the African agenda of achieving peace, security and development, including respect for human rights.” Hmm, yeah right, "respect for human rights".
Then there was talk about elevating South Africa to permanent member status. Any bets on that happening now?
Zimbabwe Crisis Deepens, But South Africa Still Blocking Security Council Action
Any U.N. Security Council action on Zimbabwe may have to wait until South Africa, Zimbabwe’s neighbour and longstanding defender of President Robert Mugabe’s government, relinquishes its council seat at the end of the year.
Amid mounting pressure from the U.S. and elsewhere on Mugabe to stand down, Harare continues to look to its allies to block meaningful U.N. action. Closed-door ministerial-level council talks were underway in New York on Monday.
“We continue to witness a failure of the leadership in Zimbabwe to address the political, economic, human rights and humanitarian crisis that is confronting the country and to do what is best for the people of Zimbabwe,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the council in a briefing, according to a U.N. statement.
Despite ongoing efforts, Ban said, “I unfortunately have to conclude that neither the [Zimbabwean] government nor the mediator [South Africa, acting on behalf of the regional Southern African Development Community] welcomes a U.N. role.”
“This clearly limits our ability to effectively help find immediate remedies to the crisis.”
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said earlier the U.S. had been talking to Security Council members, including South Africa, in a bid to “start a process that will bring an end to the tragedy that is unfolding in Zimbabwe.”
The state-owned Harare Herald daily quoted Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu as saying Zimbabwe would “work hard to block [Security Council action] with the assistance of our friends.”
South Africa, which for years has propped up Mugabe economically while giving him diplomatic cover, holds one of 10 two-year seats on the Security Council. It argues that as the Zimbabwe situation does not pose a threat to international peace and security, it should not be taken up by the council.
When in late 2006 it was elected to the position – for the first time in South Africa’s history – Pretoria said it regarded the two-year stint as an “opportunity to elevate to a global level the African agenda of achieving peace, security and development, including respect for human rights.” South Africa frequently is discussed as a likely permanent member of an enlarged Security Council, should long-delayed attempts to reform the top U.N. body bear fruit.
‘Persuade him to go’
The South African government at the weekend urged Mugabe to speed up the formation of an inclusive government with the MDC, but it remains strongly opposed to any Security Council intervention.
Mugabe has been viewed by many Africans as a hero of the struggle against colonialism, and following independence in 1980 Zimbabwe lent support to the then-outlawed African National Congress (ANC), now South Africa’s ruling party.
Two days later, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told reporters in Durban that neither tougher sanctions against Harare nor “invading” would work and said the ANC would seek to “persuade” him to retire.
He said senior ANC leaders had discussed reasons why Mugabe may be loath to step down and believed he was worried about facing an international tribunal. Mantashe cited the case of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, forced into exile and then extradited to The Hague where he is on trial for war crimes arising out of the vicious decade-long civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.
Among those who have called for Mugabe to stand down are President Bush, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Botswana President Seretse Ian Khama.
In a strong-worded attack at the weekend, the Anglican Bishop of Pretoria, Joe Seoka, called Mugabe “the 21st century Hitler” because of the suffering he has inflicted on the country.
He called on South African churches to use Tuesday – a public holiday designed to foster racial reconciliation – as an opportunity to pray for Mugabe’s ouster. Seoka also said the Zimbabwean leader should face an international tribunal in The Hague.
Meanwhile Mugabe’s government, in line with long-established practice, is leveling accusations in several directions.
It has long accused the West, especially Britain, of responsibility for an economic crisis that has impoverished the country, where inflation runs at a world-record high of well over 200 million percent.
Upping the rhetoric, information minister Ndlovu at the weekend told the Herald that the cholera outbreak ravaging Zimbabwe was the result of a biological warfare attack by Britain.
“Cholera is a calculated racist, terrorist attack on Zimbabwe by the unrepentant former colonial power which has enlisted support from its American and Western allies so that they invade the country,” he said.
Another government minister accused Botswana – the most outspokenly critical of Zimbabwe’s neighbors – of sheltering and training MDC “bandits” plotting to overthrow Mugabe by force.
Both Botswana and the MDC denied the allegations, and the opposition party expressed concern that Mugabe was seeking a pretext for a new crackdown and the imposition of a state of emergency.
Mugabe has threatened to call new elections if the rivals do not reach agreement soon; the MDC is not averse to fresh elections, but says they must be under international supervision.
Having a state of emergency in place in the run-up to an election would make it difficult for the opposition to campaign freely.