Friday, June 27, 2008

Zimbabwe this fraud “election day”

The AP reports on what it calls "Zimbabwe’s 1-candidate runoff."

VOA ledes with “EU: Zimbabwe's Runoff Vote a Meaningless Sham."

BBC World News just headlined: "Voters snub 'sham' Zimbabwe poll"

At the WaPo-Newsweek blog PostGlobal under the lede "Hold South Africa responsible for Zimbabwe’s mess," journalist Njoroge Wachai posted today an op-ed which friends pointed out to me as making more sense about Zimbabwe’s problems than most of what we read in the Western press. Here’s some of what Wachai’s saying, followed by my brief comments below the star line.

…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 neighbor - 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 colonization. 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. (Let’s hope not. - JinC)

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 recognize 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.

Njoroge’s entire op-ed post’s here.
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Comments:

Given my limited knowledge of “the situation on the ground,” Njoroge’s words can speak here for themselves except I’ll add people who I respect and who know something about “the ground” say Njoroge’s gotten to the heart of the matter by pointing the finger at Mbaki and South Africa.

They also say he’s performing a brave and crucial service for Zimbabweans by tossing down the gauntlet to those African leaders who shout “colonialism” as an excuse to keep Western nations from joining with those African nations which have the will and ability to bring about desperately needed changes in Zimbabwe.

More soon on Zimbabwe

Hat tip to you all who have provided information and commentary on Zimbabwe, most especially Danvers who’s “on the ground.”

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are about 200 or so top government officials who are living in luxury in Zimbabwe and who are keeping Mugabe in power. Let's face it, they all fear the International Courts and are not about to give up power and face trial for their crimes. In addition to what Njoroge suggests, the world community could freeze all the assets and financial transactions of these individuals, all international travel could be banned, the visas of all their children studying overseas could be revoked, all international banking suspended. At least they would be feeling some of the pain. Mbeki has been exposed and should be hanging his head in shame. Steve in New Mexico

Danvers said...

John,

Mugabe can act with impunity, because he knows the rest of the world, specifically the US and Britain, lacks the political will to do anything but protest, or impose further sanctions.

The only real threat to him is South Africa. In the same way that the Rhodesian Government of Ian Smith was forced, by then SA Prime Minister John Foster, to enter into negotiations with Britain to end UDI, so SA will ultimately be the only country that will end Mugabe's rule. It is his support mechanism and his economic life line. Unfortunately with Mbeki as President that is unlikely to happen.

Food, fuel, arms and ammunition, and electrical power are all supplied to Zimbabwe by or through SA. It would be simple enough to cut off those essential commodities; or even threaten to do it. That would be sufficient to force negotiations. It will not happen with an ANC government.

I remarked in an earlier post that Mbeki is duplicitous; this is borne out by an article in the SA newspaper the Mail and Guardian today that lists, in great detail the flow of arms, ammunition and military equipment, including helicopter spares, over the past few years; the same years that Mbeki has been the SADC chief negotiator. Even this most recent Chinese arms shipment, the one stopped by the SA High Court from being offloaded in SA, was to be shipped to Zimbabwe by a the government armaments company - Armscor. Mbeki, in a cabinet meeting, insisted that the ship be allowed to dock and offload its arms.

I think the rest of the world lost the initiative on Zimbabwe with the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US. Mugabe was faced with the reality of having lost a referendum on a new constitution that would, inter-alia, have virtually guaranteed him the Presidency for life. That is when the new opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) began to show its strength. It is also when the destruction of Zimbabwe began, including the theft of the commercial farmland. There is no doubt that he stole the 2002 elections as well. With 9/11, the focus of the US and the UK moved obviously and immediately away from the trivialities of problems with Zimbabwe.

The question of why Mugabe refuses to back down, retire or hand over power has a lot to do with the African psyche. The true concept of a democracy is totally foreign, [the problem with a democracy is that you have to be a democracy to have a democracy] and there seems to be a genetic predisposition to absolute power forever. If you have any doubts, consider such luminaries as (in no particular order) Idi Amin Dada, Jean Bedel Bocassa, Mengistu Haile Miriam, Charles Taylor, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Mobutu Sese Seko, Samora Machel......

If ever there was a more apt saying that applies to Zimbabwean politics than "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely", I do not know what it is.

Further, Mugabe and his henchmen have grown used to running a kleptocracy; there is no concept of division between what belongs to the country and what belongs to the politicians in power. It does not take much effort to go through the list of political heavweights that dominate ZANU-PF, and see exactly what 'misconduct' each and every one has been involved in. Mugabe may be the most visible, but they are all involved.

Finally, there is the small problem of war crimes. Mugabe's self confessed "moment of madness" - the Gukurahundi Massacre of 1982/83 - is a major obstacle to any form of handover of power. While Mugabe may be able to avoid prosecution as a quid pro quo, no such amnesty would ever be given to his subordinates. Specifically the 'Generals' who keep him in power would never be granted amnesty; they were too directly involved, so therefore he must be kept in power.