Friday, July 13, 2007

No South African bailout for Mugabe

Apparently, the rumors that the South African Development Community were planning to rescue the Zimbabwean economy by pegging the value of the Zimbabwean dollar to the South African rand have, apparently turned out to be inaccurate.

Well, the reports probably were accurate. After all, they were leaked by sources inside the SADC itself. However, the SADC wasn't quite prepared for the flurry of condemnation that followed. Why would anyone in their right mind prop up Robert Mugabe's regime by fixing his economy and leaving (for the most part) the political problems that have ruined it in place? Within less than two days, South Africa went from expressing "concern" over the Zimbabwean economic nightmare, to pitching the rand idea, to denying everything. I've got to hand it to Thabo Mbeki - he's certainly figured out the mechanics of the news cycle par excellence. Once an invaluable ally in the anti-apartheid struggle, even some of the same black South Africans who once owned Mugabe a debt of gratitude are starting to get fed up with Mugabe's intractable tyranny.

There's no denying, however, that South Africa has made a royal mess out of their relationship with Robert Mugabe, and they're looking for a quick and politically painless exit from their once inseparable relationship with Mugabe. President Mbeki is learning first hand how "regional leadership" isn't all it's cracked up to be. South Africa did not create the Mugabe dictatorship - true. However, they suddenly realized just how ineffective their "quiet diplomacy" with Mugabe was.

I suggest that Thabo Mbeki start reading up on the nature of dictatorships to find out why Robert Mugabe has put his own interests ahead of his relationship with South Africa, or even that of his own people. It might even save South Africa a bit of embarrassment down the line when they will inevitably deal with the same problems down the line with Angolan dictator José Eduardo dos Santos! And until then? Well, there's always the strategy of "quiet disengagement", which is also known as, "ignore him, and maybe he'll just go away". It doesn't work any better than "quiet diplomacy", but it certainly offers the same results with even less work.

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