Is Mbeki Mugabe’s new spin doctor?
By Benjamin Semwayo
Hot on the heels of a statement issued by Thabo Mbeki to the effect that South Africans must not comment on Mugabe’s long overdue vacation of office, another statement from the same source has hit the headlines. Opposition politicians were riled when Mbeki, hardly a month after ruffling the feathers of suffering Zimbabweans by suggesting that the suffering they are enduring under Mugabe should continue and any South Africans should not support calls for Mugabe to leave office and let the Zimbabweans solve their own problems.
This has come against the backdrop of a situation where every Zimbabwean election is rigged, with abundant evidence, meaning that although the voters go to the elections and vote out Mugabe, the ballots are manipulated to give Mugabe a win.
Some South Africans, notably Julius Malema, Catholic Bishops and some of the opposition parties, understand the plight of the Zimbabweans and have expressed their disquiet over Mugabe’s continued misrule.They have joined the voices of reason and thrown their weight behind the Zimbabwean opposition party movements that are agitating for change.
It is these democratic South African voices that have irked Mbeki, who has targeted them with his acerbic reprimand. He effectively said any South African considering coming to the aid of the suffering Zimbabweans should stop in their tracks and be content with being mere spectators. He has gone a step further to say he is ready to do battle with anyone who does not comply.
In an article in Pindula News he is quoted as saying, ‘I would fight any South African who says Mugabe must go.’
In his latest statement, Mbeki again caught the ire of the opposition parties in Zimbabwe when he suggested that Margaret Thatcher was reluctant to impose sanctions on Rhodesia (Zimbabwe’s name before independence from Britain in 1980) because Britain had ‘kith and kin’ in the country. He contended that Britain has no interest in the future of Zimbabwe, but in that of their kinsmen in the country.
Mbeki also charged that Britain has selfish interests in Zimbabwe and is only interested in regime change. This appears to be where the thorny issue between Mbeki and the Zimbabweans lies.
The people of Zimbabwe do not view the position taken by Britain, or indeed any other entity that calls for the rule of law and the observance of true democracy as partisan, but as a natural, default reaction to the veritable, tangible violations of the regulations of democracy by anyone with moral any scruples.
Zimbabweans have gone to the elections and there have been flagrant violations of the electoral processes, many of which were brought to Mbeki’s attention during his tenure as the South African head of State.
After the murder of more than 200 MDC supporters during the 2008 run-off election in Zimbabwe the South African government sent a delegation of army Generals to investigate the violence, and their verdict was that the blame rested squarely on Mugabe and his Zanu PF. So incriminating was the evidence gathered that the South African government gagged the release of the report into the public domain.
It subsequently became the subject of a protracted court battle spanning years, which culminated in victory for the forces of good when the judge finally ordered its release. True to expectation, the can of worms that the South African government had tried to keep under wraps was opened, revealing the true extent of the inhumanity of Zanu PF.
Writing about the horror of that time in the Guardian in an article entitled ‘This is no Election. This is a brutal war.’ published on Sunday 22 June 2008, Chris McGreal gives chilling details of the inhumane treatment opposition supporters received at the hands of the Mugabe regime.
Some African governments, among them Tanzania and Kenya, said there was no hope of a fair election.Marwick Khumalo, the head of an African parliamentarians’ observer mission in Zimbabwe, said he had received ‘horrendous stories’ of political violence and would not endorse the election if it continued. It did continue. Most of the observer groups in the country, including some of those sympathetic to Mugabe, which he had personally cherry-picked to the exclusion of those he deemed to favour the opposition, condemned the elections as not free and fair.
Mbeki cannot therefore pretend not to know the barbarism with which Zanu PF treats its political opponents, having personally dispatched his generals to investigate the violence. It had to be an extraordinary case of violence for the President to arrive at the decision to take such a radical step.
The extent of the problem having been laid bare, the only honourable thing to do was for Mbeki to use his influence to persuade Mugabe to relinquish power, and even use the threat of force if he refused to comply, but he did the unthinkable. He sided with Mugabe and during the crafting of the Government of National Unity piled pressure on Tsvangirai to play second fiddle to Mugabe, his friend.
The same Mbeki who is saying Zimbabweans should be left alone to solve their own problems lost his patience with Tsvangirai and became so emotional that he insulted the MDC leader with unprintable expletives no-one ever dreamt could come out of the mouth of a man of his stature.
When Mugabe is under fire Mbeki’s rule is that people should not interfere; when Tsvangirai is under fire that is fine, and even Mbeki himself can join the lynching mob, take aim, and fire missiles.
Any human being anywhere who hears of the blood-curdling horrors perpetrated by Mugabe and his henchmen has to be moved even if he has the minutest measure of moral conscience. In Zimbabwe people have been burnt alive, thrown into disused mines, bludgeoned to death or hacked with machetes.Whole families have been locked in huts that were then torched, and incinerated with no way of escape.
Anyone with ‘ubuntu’ (humanity) cannot fail to sympathise with the people of Zimbabwe and feel the irresistible urge to come to their aid, which Mbeki and many of his fellow African presidents have shamefully failed to do, but which Britain, Botswana and other progressive countries have done, convinced they were duty-bound to do so.
Zimbabwe is known the world over for its dysfunctional political system and the systematic state sponsored abuse of a whole nation and Mbeki knows all this more than most people, given the privileged position he enjoyed as the South African President who could command national resources and instruct his subordinates to produce for him a personalised report giving first hand information on the state of a neighbouring country.
Unfortunately, rather than being guided by principles of ‘ubuntu’, Mbeki chose to put material gains first and sacrifice a whole nation, acting like an apologist on Mugabe’s payroll.
It would be interesting to find out what he would say was his interpretation of the findings of the investigation he personally commissioned in 2008, or on Mugabe’s general propensity to unleash brute force on his political opponents, which is well documented. It is obviously another case of trying to defend the indefensible, as all apologists are prone to do. Perhaps he has a new job as Mugabe’s spin doctor.