Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hold South Africa Responsible for Zim Mess

Zimbabwe's chaos has brought about unprecedented cooperation in the UN, with even China and Russia switching sides to condemn Mugabe's government. So -- what should this united UN DO to force change?

After refereeing a month-long, bloody campaign -- mainly targeting supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), of Morgan Tsvangirai -- the Zimbabwean government holds a sham election whose sole objective is to extend the inept and despotic leadership of President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe and his bloodthirsty thugs have already elbowed out Mr. Tsvangirai from the contest through violence and police intimidation. They’ve murdered about 90 opposition supporters, according to media accounts. Thousands of others are nursing injuries in hospitals across Zimbabwe, while millions others are languishing in poverty in neighboring South Africa.

So the election is a cakewalk for despot Mugabe. Countries around the world, Africa included, have pledged not to confer legitimacy to this one-man (s)election.

Mugabe has derisively and arrogantly dismissed an appeal by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to postpone the election until peace and tranquility returns. In his characteristic bravado, he’s rebuffed the UN Security Council, which early this week condemned acts of violence being meted on innocent opposition supporters, whose only offense has been to exercise their democratic rights. The South African Development Community’s (SDC) call, also, has fallen on Mugabe’s deaf ears.

Yesterday he bellowed that he won’t allow the African Union (AU) to poke its nose into Zimbabwe’s affairs.

With all this arrogant defiance, Zimbabwe is in a deep political hole. The future of democracy in this once-prosperous country is bleak. The million-dollar question is whether the world should wring its hands in silence and allow Mugabe to continue treating Zimbabweans like slaves who know not their rights. How long will this despot continue to ride roughshod over Zimbabweans?

Indifference and alacrity to Zimbabwe’s deteriorating political situation are what the world can’t afford at this moment. Enough is enough!

Considering the manner in which Mugabe is thumbing his nose at the international community, including the UN, it’s unlikely that Zimbabweans, who are already terrified of challenging this dictator, can sort out the mess in their country on their own.

International intervention is necessary, from anyone who purports to care about democracy and human rights.

This possibility, unfortunately, is being fervently opposed by none other than Zimbabwe’s powerful neighbour - South Africa.

South Africa stands accused of deliberate dereliction of its duty to solve the Zimbabwe crisis. South Africa has betrayed Zimbabweans by handling Mugabe with children’s gloves. Its president, Thabo Mbeki, has refused to speak forcefully and firmly against Mugabe even while he encourages his supporters to kill and main innocent Zimbabweans.

South Africa’s soft handling of the Zimbabwean situation is perplexing. South Africa has time and again demonstrated its readiness to pick fights with countries willing to speak for millions of Zimbabweans, whom Mugabe and his thugs continue to terrorize.

Mbeki has been massaging Mugabe to talk peace instead of demanding that he stop making a mockery of democracy. He has adopted a wink-wink strategy in resolving the Zimbabwean crisis. At one time, he discounts the existence of a crisis in Zimbabwe. At another time, he lies to the world that he’s doing everything he can to bring peace to Zimbabwe.

When countries such as the U.S., Britain, Italy, France, Germany, Canada, and Australia demand Mugabe respect the Zimbabwean people’s right to choose a president, Mbeki declares they’re ill-suited for the job because they’re outsiders. When outrage towards Mugabe reaches a crescendo, South Africa -- through the African National Congress (ANC) -- warns against international intervention. It goes further to tie such calls to the dark era of colonisation. This is how the ANC puts it: “No colonial power in Africa, least of all Britain in its colony of ‘Rhodesia’, ever demonstrated any respect for these (democratic and human rights) principles.”

What a flawed argument. What do relics of colonialism have to do with Mugabe’s refusal to accede to an electoral defeat? Invoking “colonialism” is a diversionary ploy. South Africa and Mugabe hope this colonial legacy will force other African countries to temper their criticism of Zimbabwe. But the world isn’t full of nincompoops.

Had the world listened to Mbeki and Mugabe, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, and Haiti -- all of which owe their political stability to outside intervention -- would still be burning today.

Perhaps the world is mistaken to think that South Africa is a model of democracy in Africa. Fourteen years is too short a time to make such a conclusion.

South Africa, through its discredited and ineffective quiet democracy, has failed to persuade Mugabe to postpone elections. Now that Mugabe has defied Mbeki, what next?

Grass will certainly grow beneath our feet if we wait for Mbeki to produce a resolution to the Zimbabwean crisis. It’s time the world looked elsewhere.

Already, many African countries have condemned Zimbabwe. The African Union (AU), still, can move mountains without South Africa. It can, for instance, refuse to recognise Mugabe. Countries disenchanted with Mugabe can even severe diplomatic ties with Zimbabwe until a free and fair election is held.

Now is the time to remind Mugabe that he’s a dark horse.

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