Friday, April 25, 2008

Constitutionally Speaking - Mbeki & Mugabe

Pierre de Vos, the guy behind the blog Constitutionally Speaking, once again produced a very well thought through and articulated article - this time on Thabo Mbeki's much talked about political strategy of 'quiet diplomacy' towards Robert Mugabe's ongoing abuses in Zimbabwe.

The article, 'Zimbabwe: Why Mbeki is all carrot and not stick', lead to a rather long debate in the comments following below the article. It makes for interesting reading (in this case the comments) and is a good reflection on some of the different views present in South Africa on this issue. Once again many of the arguments is directly or indirectly race based - something that will sadly be with us for a long time to come...

Snippets from the article:

...Of course we have to remember that the two previous elections were declared credible and mostly free by South African observers (following the Mbeki line), despite the fact that these were conducted in an atmosphere of fear and violence and according to electoral rules that clearly allowed for the massaging of the results in favour of Mugabe. This suggests that the Mbeki ANC would have done and said almost anything to ensure that Mugabe was not humiliated or criticised in any way...

...There are at least two problems with these arguments.

First, South Africa is supposed to be a constitutional state based on the Rule of Law and a respect for human rights and the government police (sic) is supposedly to promote respect for human rights across Africa and to foster good governance in Africa through Nepad and the African Peer Review mechanism.

The failure of the government to forcefully criticise even the most flagrant human rights abuses and the stealing of two previous elections by Mugabe, suggests that South Africa is a silent or not so silent supporter of a tyrant and thus makes a mockery of the supposed leadership of our President and our country on human rights issues. This undermines our standing in the world and among right thinking people all across Africa. It is a matter of credibility: if one mollycoddles a tyrant it is hard to be taken seriously when making lofty statements about good governance and respect for human rights in other parts of Africa or the rest of the world (like in the USA or Iraq).

Our President has lost all credibility by holding hands with a person who has lost an election and now refuses to accept this reality and is using his military to terrorise the population who had the audacity to vote for the opposition.

Second, (and much worse) the South African governments’ silence (sold as quiet diplomacy) has actually helped to prop up Mugabe and thus helps him to stay in power... South Africa could place serious diplomatic and economic pressure on Mugabe to change but has failed to do so. This makes our government complicit in the murder and torture of thousands of Zimbawean citizens and the ruining of the economy in that country.

Thus South Africa’s actions have helped to support a tyrant in power and have made it potentially more (not less) difficult to get rid of him...

To read the full article & the interesting debate in the comments section go here.

I also touched on the subject in March of 2007 when I put the question - 'Robert Mugabe - credible partner for quiet diplomacy?'. That was after the leader of the opposition was detained and ended up in hospital.

No comments: