Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Monday, July 05, 2004

AU Slams Zimbabwe
The AU has been hard at work over the weekend, adopting a report which slams the Zim leadership for "the arrests and torture of opposition members of parliament and human rights lawyers, the arrests of journalists, the stifling of freedom of expression and clampdowns on other civil liberties." This is a monumentous development in Africa's treatment of Zimbabwe and must hopefully be heralded as a new dawn in relations.

What is interesting is that the report was compiled by the AU's African Commission on Human and People's Rights subsequent to the Zimbabwean presidential elections in June 2002. Assuming that it wouldn't have taken them more than six months to complete the report, this infers that this position was enunciated late 2002, early 2003, which thus begs the question, why was it hidden until mid-2004? The official line given by the AU is that it was not submitted to the AU's 2003 summit "because it had not been translated into French." Plausible? We think not..

The report cannot have been signed off without the main African powers tacit or manifest agreement, and Nigerian and South Africa diplomats would surely not have allowed this harsh critique to be pushed through in the midst of "quiet diplomacy" initiatives. It is rather coincidental that this development comes just days after Mbeki's admission that quiet diplomacy had been a failure in bringing about any change in Zimbabwe. What is more plausible is that Nigerian and South African diplomats stonewalled that report so as to not interfere with their quiet diplomacy strategy.

Whatever the reasons for the delay though, we can celebrate this censure as a marked policy shift in Africa, and hopefully, the commencement of a new South African strategy on Zimbabwe.