Perspectives on Zimbabwe Erroneous

Published on 20th May 2008

Mugabe has stood resolutely in defense of the right of Zimbabweans to repossess land that was stolen from their forefathers

On May 11th 2008, The Sunday Standard carried an editorial entitled African Leaders Part of the Zimbabwean Crisis that asked what Africa stands for, if it cannot chastise Mr Robert Mugabe over his belligerence and bigotry. It alleged that Zimbabwe partly contributed to its economic blockade by the West and asked African leaders to flex their muscles and deploy their diplomatic skills to solve the Mugabe- Tsvangirai impasse.

“If the continent, with a heart gnawed by poverty, misrule and exploitation by the West, cannot raise a finger over what is happening in Zimbabwe, then who should? If we do not stand up and tell off the brute dictator who has been in power for 28 years, during which he has turned his country from a food basket to a basket case, then why should we expect the rest of the world to intervene? If Africa cannot see Zimbabwe as an extended prison and a classic case of our failed states, then why should the rest of the world lend a hand? Or should we, in the name of respecting another nation’s sovereignty, just stand, hands akimbo, trusting that Mr Thabo Mbeki’s prescription of ‘quiet diplomacy’ will work?” the editorial sought to know.

Ambassador Kelebert Nkomani, Zimbabwean envoy to Kenya and Permanent Representative to Unep and UN-Habitat sets the record straight:

The editorial seriously misleads readers on the challenges that Zimbabwe faces. First, it accuses President Robert Mugabe of “belligerence and bigotry” and labels him a “brute dictator.” Mugabe has stood resolutely against all odds in defense of the right of Zimbabweans to repossess land that was stolen from their forefathers. If this is “belligerence and bigotry,” so be it.

A reputable dictionary describes a dictator as a person invested with absolute authority. Mugabe cannot be described as a dictator by any stretch of imagination as he is in power constitutionally. Since independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has held elections in accordance with its constitution and always on schedule. It is one of the few African countries that have never been a one-party state.

The editorial acknowledges that Zimbabwe is going through an “economic blockade by the West.” Despite this insidious and unilateral (not sanctioned by the UN) embargo, the country continues to soldier on. The embargo includes denial of credit lines for companies, denial of multilateral assistance and balance of payments support and a systematic campaign to deter investment into Zimbabwe. We would expect that there be a call for an end of sanctions that have led to all the ills ably enumerated by the editorial. The ordinary Zimbabwean is the victim of these illegal sanctions

The violence that occurred after March 29 elections in some parts of the country has been blown out of proportion. It is important for the readers to know that the government of Zimbabwe and the police has a zero tolerance policy on violence. Perpetrators are brought to book without fear or favour.

African leaders should not be accused of failure to address the Zimbabwe issue. The country values advice from African leaders. As we are well aware, our very independence is the product of the support that we received from the African Union or its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity. The southern African Development Community (SADC) has been actively involved in the negotiations between the two major parties in Zimbabwe for over a year now. SADC, through its lead negotiator, President Thabo Mbeki, has played a leading role in the arrangements between ZANU(PF) and the MDC that led to major constitutional changes ahead of recent elections. SADC has recently renewed its confidence in Mbeki, who was in Zimbabwe last week for discussions.

The newly elected AU Commissioner was also in the country. The chair of AU, himself a SADC member, has been kept well briefed on developments in Zimbabwe. Many other consultations are taking place at the highest levels.

The editorial claimed that many (African Leaders) like Mugabe, “are tin gods who wield power in similar fashion.” This kind of language exposes the paper as one of those critics who see nothing positive coming from majority of African leaders. This Afro-pessimism is a serious indictment of our very being as African people.

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