Monday 11 August 2008

Africans a-liberate Zimbabwe

Bob Marley’s seminal hit Zimbabwe may be ironically prophetic in many ways than one. For starters, the great man sang that Africans shall liberate Zimbabwe (or as he put it: Africans a-liberate Zimbabwe) and certainly, in the fight for independence against Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, neighbouring African states played a significant role in liberating the country. However, with the political repression and terror, rapid social and economic decline of the country under the misrule of Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF cabal, the song has taken a much more poignant and bitterly ironic twist.

With the country’s fate now being decided by politicians who were, only until recently, sworn enemies African mediation efforts could be about to yield a positive result. It does appear as if South African President Thabo Mbeki’s much maligned quiet diplomacy may yet yield some semblance of order in Zimbabwe and his mediation efforts which began over a year ago, could now result in a government of national unity that will bring in opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirayi into government possibly as an executive Prime Minister.

Now I have to confess that I am one of those people who have strongly criticized Thabo Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy in as far as he appeared to shirk his responsibilities as the leader of the most powerful and influential nation in the region. Like many others, I felt that he did not, as he should have done from the very beginning of this crisis, robustly challenge Mugabe’s repression of his own people. He should have made it very clear that South Africa would not stand the octogenarian dictator riding roughshod over his political opponents and in general, long suffering Zimbabweans. In fact, it appeared as if he condoned Mugabe’s actions and if anything, the only time the South African leader was critical of anything, his ire was directed at the West – ostensibly the wrong targets.

However, one has to concede that should Mbeki broker this GNU as seems likely at this point, he will certainly gain many plaudits from many, including myself, who had long ridiculed and criticized his efforts up to now. Never mind the revolting possibility that the agreement may provide the despicable Mugabe with immunity against prosecution for all his sins; the people of Zimbabwe have suffered for so long, that all they want is peace in their neighbourhoods and food on their table and an economy that functions and is devoid of world record high inflation figures. If the GNU can deliver this then Thabo Mbeki would be a considered an African hero and statesman. Also significantly his efforts would have at least shown that Africans can, eventually, solve their own problems and that perhaps there is some hope after all for the vast conflict-ridden continent. 

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