Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Democracy, SADC style
More truth was revealed about Southern Africa's blind love for Mugabe's Zimbabwe during the SADC summit yesterday. The SADC leaders, to a man, praised Mugabe's Zimbabwe and warned that Africans are 'tired of being preached to' by the West.

It would be interesting to know how much politics was involved in these statements, with the most vociferous commentary coming from leaders of Tanzania, Mauritius and Lesotho who are, economically at least, under the skirts their 'big brother' regional powers. Mbeki was very careful not to be quoted saying anything at this summit, but the party line is being towed here and it follows neatly on from the hushing up of the recent AU directive on human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

How Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, former chairperson of the SADC's key politics, defence and security body, can say that "democracy is not just well, but is thriving," in the SADC is beyond any sane mind. Whilst some members are regional bastions for democracy, one can hardly claim that democracy is playing any sort of role in Zimbabwe. The continued blind oversight of human rights abuses in conjunction with the blatant abuse of democracy is patent, and is incomprehensible.

Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa says that "we are tired of being lectured on democracy by the very countries which, under colonialism, either directly denied us the rights of free citizens, or were indifferent in our suffering and yearnings to break free and be democratic". Is Mugabe's stranglehold on power, denying food aid to non-ZanuPF voters, beating up opponents, forcibly stealing legitimately owned land, and watching whilst the majority of his people starve, not the same thing?

I have to agree with Leon's sentiments when he said the SADC meeting "presented the perfect opportunity for SADC leaders to discuss the report of the African Commission on Human and People''s Rights on Zimbabwe, which was presented at the third ordinary session of the African Union in Addis Ababa last month and which the Zimbabwean government has now had ample time to study. Instead, SADC leaders outdid each other in heaping praises on Mugabe''s government."

Bizarre times indeed. History will make short work of judging of both the SADC and Mbeki's line on Zimbabwe and we'll all wonder, how did we let it happen?