Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mbeki speculates on Mugabe

Worried about the future of Zimbabwe? Well, according to Zimbabwe's neighbors, you shouldn't. For example, South African president Thabo Mbeki believes that Robert Mugabe will step down peacefully, although he sounded surprisingly non-committal about this bombshell revelation, as if someone asked him if he would be available for cocktails on Friday:

"I think so. Yes, sure."

And what does his excellency base this opinion on?

"You see, President Mugabe and the leadership of ZANU-PF believe they are running a democracy."

Robert Mugabe may believe a great many things, but at no point would he ever concede privately that "elections" in Zimbabwe are anything but a cynical exercise in ballot stuffing and voter intimidation. Mbeki, who is not actually an imbecile, tacitly concedes this point, thereby completing a logical circle and taking his observation back to square one:

"You might question ... whether elections [in Zimbabwe] are genuinely free and fair, but we have to get Zimbabweans to where they do have genuinely free and fair."

Did you catch all that? Mugabe and ZANU-PF will step down peacefully because they "believe" they are running a democracy, and while Zimbabwean elections are not free and fair, if we can just get Zimbabweans to believe that they are, well, then return to the first statement: Mugabe and ZANU-PF will step down peacefully because ...

Nobody with a grain of common sense could believe for a minute that President Mbeki actually thinks that Robert Mugabe or his loathsome ZANU-PF cronies are going to step down peacefully, but as I've mentioned before, Mbeki would rather not take Mugabe to task in public, which is why he's framed his replies to queries about Mugabe in such speculative, politically harmless language.

Does Mbeki have some sort of inside knowledge about Mugabe's political future? It's possible, but if he does, he's certainly not sharing it with the public, preferring instead to engage in harmless speculation that pretends there's nothing seriously wrong in Zimbabwe. In reality, Mbeki knows Mugabe, and knows that Mugabe has given every indication that he intends to be president until he dies. It's this realization that makes Mbeki's public squirming over Mugabe uncomfortable for everyone involved, especially for everyone who's fed up with the out of control events in Zimbabwe.

So what does all of this amount to? Another squandered opportunity for South Africa to do anything constructive in ending Mugabe's ruinous dictatorship, of course. Mbeki should pause for a moment to reflect on whether his country's allegiance to southern Africa's political and economic wellbeing outweighs his country's, long repaid, debt to Robert Mugabe for his aid in the struggle against apartheid. By taking the shortsighted view, Mbeki is engaging himself as a silent partner of Mugabe and taking a passive role in the oppression of millions of his neighbors.

UPDATE: The Zimbabwean state run Herald newspaper has printed a scandalous threat against resident British diplomat Gillian Dare.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I feel that the article referenced in the above post revels a lot about the S.A. leadership and the political outlook for the country.

The issue is that the happenings in Zimbabwe have the seemingly silent approval of the president of S.A.

Reading the rest of the article I am left with the impression that he does not believe that the average South African south concern themselves with the leadership race.

"Mbeki told the FT that ordinary South Africans are not interested in the leadership race."

I wish there was a better understanding of democracy in Africa.