The tendency to compare contemporary political events to the Third Reich is called reducto ad Hitlerum, so facile are the alleged similarities and so often is this tactic employed. With that caveat, when I saw a photograph Friday of smiling, garland-laden South African President Thabo Mbeki holding the hand of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, I couldn't resist drawing a mental parallel: British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938 waving his copy of the Munich treaty before a crowd of thousands, boasting that he had achieved "peace for our time."Article via Instapundit.
That Mbeki, who last month insisted there was "no crisis" in Zimbabwe, continues to glad-hand Mugabe represents a complete abandonment of moral responsibility. As he provides diplomatic cover, Mugabe's armed thugs roam Zimbabwe's countryside threatening, torturing and killing people believed to have voted for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The MDC claims 25 of its supporters have been murdered and 40,000 people have been displaced since the March 29 parliamentary and presidential election. The regime has detained journalists and trade union leaders as well as members of the country's electoral commission, the body that verifies election results.
The regime claims that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, while besting Mugabe, did not poll more than the 50% required for an outright win and has mandated a runoff. Given that the alternative would be an automatic Mugabe victory, Tsvangirai has decided to take part. Yet conditions for a free and fair election clearly do not exist in Zimbabwe. In an interview with the New York Times last week, a member of Mugabe's Politburo implicitly promised war: "We're giving the people of Zimbabwe another opportunity to mend their ways, to vote properly. This is their last chance."
And yet, as the world looks to South Africa for political leadership (as it is the region's economic powerhouse), Mbeki stands idly by. In fact, his methods of dealing with the tyrant to his north -- supplying cut-rate electric power, issuing nary a word of criticism, siding with Russia and China to prevent the dispatch of a U.N. envoy to report on postelection violence -- has exacerbated the political and humanitarian crisis.
Why has Mbeki acted this way?
National liberation movements rule the roost in much of southern Africa: Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa are all governed by political parties that emerged from armed revolutionary movements, and their leaders tend to close ranks when one is threatened. The leaders of South Africa's ruling African National Congress fear a domino effect, in which the fall of a sister liberation movement could portend a similar fate for its own political fortunes. "If Zimbabwe 'falls,' South Africa will be the next target," South African historian R.W. Johnson wrote recently in the London Review of Books.
Zimbabwean writer Blessing-Miles Tendi, writing in the Guardian, offered another explanation for South Africa's inertia: Mbeki owes Mugabe a political debt. Mugabe could have seized Zimbabwe's white-owned farms in the 1990s but resisted, in part because of pressure from the ANC, then trying to convince South Africa's whites that they would not lose their land in a post-apartheid dispensation.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
South Africa's unseemly alliance
Another update about Zimababwe. One word that could be brought to mind on this issue especially thanks to the turmoil going on in that nation as they determine who will be the President there, enabler. From the LA Times: