March 30, 2005


South Africa's failure in Zimbabwe (Padraig O'Malley, March 30, 2005, Boston Globe)

Mugabe is in substantial breach of every election protocol of the Southern African Development Community, of which Zimbabwe is a member; he has failed to implement the recommendations of the African Union's Commission on Human and People's Rights; he flouts international law, and he has banned the presence of observer teams from all countries and nongovernmental organizations that might conclude that the elections might not be free and fair (China qualifies, the European Union does not).

Rather than rebuke Mugabe for his crimes against his own people, South Africa assists in their persecution. When Zimbabweans, desperate for food and work, sneak their way into South Africa, they are incarcerated in the Lindela Repatriation Center, a prison that would put any apartheid-era prison to shame.

Sadly, black South Africans seem to have forgotten that all of Africa took them in and championed their cause, often at risk to themselves. Just weeks ago, President Thabo Mbeki pronounced, ''Nobody in Zimbabwe is likely to act in a way that will prevent free and fair elections being held" -- the blithe sentiment of the mightily unperturbed.

A mere 11 years ago, South Africa held its first free, fair, and nonracial elections, which brought 40 years of apartheid ignominy and 300 years of institutionalized racial discrimination to an end. It ushered in an era of democratic governance, with the ANC the lead actor. However, before the ANC would agree to elections in 1994, it insisted on a level political playing field. The actual casting of a ballot, the ANC well knew, is the next to final act in the process of a free and fair election, not the first. The world supported the demands the ANC made on the white minority government. It stood in solidarity, and across the globe people took to the streets on its behalf, on behalf of millions of black South Africans. It flooded the country with election observers from across the world to ensure free and fair elections.

The result is history, and South Africa has been eager to share the secrets of its success with other democracies in the process of transition.

Except with its next-door neighbor.

In the days ahead, the South African government's observers have a chance to redeem their country's honor, but few here are holding their breath.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 30, 2005 8:56 AM

Why is this unexpected? The agitation against South Africa was always about whites being in charge, not political oppression of blacks (as noted by the lack of outcry over other, contemporaneous regimes that were far more oppressive). Well, Mugabe has made sure that whites aren't in charge in Zimbabwe, so what's the problem?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at March 30, 2005 10:06 AM

Mugabe's head in Mbeki's bed.

Posted by: ratbert at March 30, 2005 10:23 AM

South Africa is the economic powerhouse of sub-Saharan Africa - not that that's much of a compliment in the 21st century.

South Africa deals with Zimbabwe much as the US deals with Mexico. Southbound traffic at Beit Bridge has picked up.

The US intelligentsia (State Dept. and universities) busily ignores the internal problems of Mexico. US citizens then complain about the all the pain in the US that originates in Mexico.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at March 30, 2005 2:42 PM