Sunday, December 21, 2008

Zim: South Africa's Crime

From The Washington Post

The [SA] government is enabling Robert Mugabe's destruction of neighbouring Zimbabwe, at the cost of thousands of lives.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe concedes that the situation in Zimbabwe is "very dire." No doubt he's familiar with what the United Nations is reporting: that more than 1,000 people have died of cholera in a spreading epidemic, that 17,000 others are infected and that more than half of the country's remaining population requires emergency food aid to avoid starvation. Hospitals have closed, 80 percent of the country lacks safe drinking water and school attendance is down to 20 percent. Inflation was last registered at 231 million percent; as a practical matter the economy has stopped. As U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put it last week, Zimbabwe "stands on the brink of economic, social and political collapse."

So is Mr. Motlanthe at last ready to use South Africa's considerable leverage to end the nightmare in its neighbour? Will his government finally join those of Zambia, Botswana, Kenya, the United States, Britain, France and Canada in calling for 84-year-old strongman Robert Mugabe to step down?

Well, no. "It's really not for us," the president told reporters Wednesday. "I mean, I don't know if the British feel qualified to impose that on the people of Zimbabwe, but we feel that we should support and take our cue from what they [Zimbabweans] want." Actually, what Zimbabweans want, desperately, is an end to the humanitarian emergency in their country -- which can come only with Mr. Mugabe's departure.

What South Africa wants is something else entirely: to resuscitate Mr. Mugabe's dying regime through a bad deal cooked up by "mediator" Thabo Mbeki, Mr. Motlanthe's predecessor. The plan calls for a "unity" government between Mr. Mugabe and the winner of last March's presidential election, Morgan Tsvangirai. Yet it long ago became clear to all but the South Africans that the formula is unworkable. Mr. Mugabe has no intention of sharing authority, especially over the military and police, which have been waging a violent campaign against the opposition. "I will never, never, never surrender . . . . Zimbabwe is mine," he said Friday.

The terror apparatus is the last functioning part of Mr. Mugabe's government. According to Amnesty International, two dozen opposition activists have disappeared in the past six weeks. Mr. Mugabe lately has been claiming that the opposition is training fighters in Botswana and trying to assassinate his ministers (the air force chief was mysteriously wounded in the hand by a gunshot). The opposition believes that Mr. Mugabe may soon attempt to impose emergency rule, using those false allegations as an excuse.

The outgoing Bush administration and Britain tried again last week to have the U.N. Security Council take up this crisis. Once again they were stopped by South Africa, with support from Russia.

Instead Mr. Motlanthe has announced a vague initiative by South Africa's neighbours to supply humanitarian support.

What's happening here is pretty clear: South Africa, a country that aspires to continental leadership, is allowing a depraved strongman to utterly destroy a neighbouring country, at a cost of thousands of lives.

Mr. Motlanthe's government has the economic, political and military leverage to rescue Zimbabweans from their leader; yet it not only refuses to act but actively blocks intervention by other countries.

Mr. Motlanthe, Mr. Mbeki and those in South Africa who support this unconscionable policy have become accessories to a grave humanitarian crime.

0 Opinion(s):