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South Africa: The Praise and Fall of Thabo Mbeki

South African President, Thabo Mbeki, is keeping bloggers increasingly active with his recent position on the situation in Zimbabwe, and bloggers are taking him to task. Here's a run-down of blogposts around the issue.

Breaking News published these two posts…

“Mbeki gives Zim arms ship green light”:

President Thabo Mbeki could have blood on his hands if a Chinese arms shipment aboard a ship anchored off Durban harbour is taken through this country to Zimbabwe.

This warning came from the DA’s spokesman on defence, Rafeek Shah, who said that the weapons could be used in post- election violence in Zimbabwe.

The ship, the An Yue Jiang, has been given clearance to dock in Durban and, according to the government, the 77t shipment of rocket-propelled grenades, mortar bombs and AK-47 ammunition will not be prevented from being sent to Zimbabwe. The arms are destined for Harare, where they are expected to be delivered to Zimbabwe’s defence ministry. Government communications head Themba Maseko said yesterday that South Africa would not interfere in the China-Zimbabwe arms deal. He claimed the government could do no more than ensure that the consignment met “administrative requirements”. He said South Africa had to “tread carefully” because of its “facilitator role” between the opposing parties in Zimbabwe.

Shah said allowing the arms shipment to pass through South Africa was not only “morally wrong” but disregarded national arms-control legislation. $(li type>square$)The National Conventional Arms Control Act of 2002 requires the government to consider the human rights and security situation in a recipient country before approving weapons sales or allowing weapons to cross its border.

and… “Zimbabwe opposition demands new mediator”:

Tsvangirai told a press conference in Johannesburg yesterday that he has asked Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa, chairman of the Southern African Development Community, to replace Mbeki with a committee to deal with the “extraordinary situation” in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai said: ‘‘We want to thank Mbeki for all his efforts, but he needs to be relieved of his duty.

Mbeki and his cabinet were at pains to explain yesterday that his comments referred only to the election and not to the broader political and economic situation. But Tsvangirai yesterday said he was not convinced by the explanation. “To me it meant one thing — that there is some attempt to underplay the situation in Zimbabwe,” he said. Tsvangirai is said to have had a strained relationship with Mbeki. On his meeting with ANC president Jacob Zuma in Johannesburg last week, Tsvangirai said: “My primary objective is to engage on the crisis in Zimbabwe. At a personal level, I think we enjoy each other’s company.”

From Politically Correct:

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai today said President Thabo Mbeki needs to be relived from his duty. Tsvangirai was speaking in Johannesburg. He said Mbeki must realise that Zimbabweans were at the receiving end of Mugabe’s brutal force and that the country was beyong “crisis”
Will Thabo listen, NO, he will simply ignore the call even after Jacob Zuma called for a new approach into the Zim “crisis”. Today parliament called for action. But knowing our president he will ignore everyone and continue with his “hush hush diplomacy”

Andrew LaGrange:

I couldn’t agree more, Mbeki has been ineffectual and criminally negligent in his wishy washy approach to resolving the vast humanitarian, economic and political crisis which is likely to boil over in Zimbabwe at any moment.

With Mbeki out of the picture, two vital things will happen:

1. The REAL leaders of the region will have a free hand to deal with the Mugabe Regime as they have wanted to for a long time, whilst being told to wait and being placated by Mbeki and his “quiet diplomacy” (aka Do Nothing)
2. South Africa, my country, will no longer have to have its good name dragged through the mud by our President who clearly, despite his supposed struggle credentials, doesn’t have the guts to stand up against undemocratic despots, and even worse funds them and gives them grain and fuel life lines while his own country suffers under massive internal problems.

The time for Mbeki’s failure is over. Now its time for real mediators and real men of power to step in and oust this terrible regime.

Something fun about the situation from the Madam & Eve cartoon blog: “Crisis? What Crisis?”

See the full cartoon here.

Madam & Eve Cartoon

The Word Wright shows a piece from the state-run Zimbabwe Herald, which praises Thabo Mbeki for his role in Zimbabwe:

Mbeki deserves special honour
“… President Mbeki needs to be specially commended and honoured by the whole Zimbabwean leadership and people for the sterling work that he has been doing in the past eight years. His “quiet diplomacy” and “soft power”, are actually not as quiet as the world wants to believe.

The backlash against President Mbeki’s presidency and his own personality has been immense. This is why Zimbabwe, as we celebrate 28 years of nationhood today, should say a big “THANK YOU” to this gallant son of Africa, just as we are saying thank you again to our gallant sons and daughters who sacrificed limb and soul for the independence of this nation. There is no substitute for genuine friendship; just like there will be no substitute for homegrown, genuine regional co-operation and integration. The least we can do is name one of our roads after Cde Mbeki and give him the freedom of the City of Harare.

As Wafawarova put it: “President Mbeki has had to face the agony of eight-and-a-half years of a crisis-waving Britain, but the ever alert and revolutionary Mbeki has not been fooled, even once. He saw no crisis with the land reclamation . . . He saw no crisis with the 2000, 2002 and 2005 elections . . .”

Apart from his now famous “No crisis in Zimbabwe” statement, President Mbeki also made the same statement a week earlier when he told dinner guests in London: “We have been very pleased with the manner in which the elections were conducted; the opposition had access to every part of the country, there was no violence, no one was beaten up. You have a very serious effort by the people of Zimbabwe to resolve their problems, we could see there was a common spirit among them and that’s the sense we got. And in the conduct of the election none of the parties came back to us to intervene to say something was going wrong.”

and finally… Mbeki tries to defend his position by asking everyone to please credit him with some intelligence in The Wild Frontier blog by Ray Hartley:

At his UN press briefing, President Thabo Mbeki was asked if he was soft on Mugabe because of their shared liberation history. This from the briefing notes:

Question: Mr President, do you feel you can be objective about President Mugabe given his legendary status of a liberation hero?

Answer: I have heard this story as well. I think that one thing that could happen is that people could credit us with the capacity to think. You know, I know, as much as you do, when something is wrong, I know it is wrong. The fact that I came from the liberation struggle does not mean I cannot recognise a wrong thing when it is wrong. It doesn’t. So, this argument, because we all come from liberation movements, we mean that we will not recognise it because of some loyalty to ourselves. I’m saying that I think it would be good if people just credited us with a little bit of intelligence. I am saying we are perfectly capable of recognising when something is wrong.
The very fact that we have this mediation process on the political challenges begins from the premise that there is much that is wrong in Zimbabwe. Otherwise, why would we mediate something that is right? This does not make sense.
This argument that there is some loyalty in the region because we have all emerged from liberation struggles like the Zimbabweans implies that when something goes wrong in South Africa, Namibia or Zimbabwe we will not be able to see it because of this comradeship. I do not know where this comes from.
The very fact that you have a mediation process like this on the political challenges is because we recognise that there are things that have gone wrong.
The second part of the decision that SADC took is that many things have gone wrong with the economy. As a consequence of which, we decided that the finance ministers of the region needed to look at this to see what it is we can do to address this economy that has gone wrong. So, what more should we say in order to answer this view that we are blind to wrong things that may be done by a fellow liberation movement. The argument cannot be substantiated.
That is why we are intervening there – because of things that have gone wrong.

So far the situation isn't looking good for Mbeki's approval ratings I should think, especially as pointed out by the Madam & Eve cartoon, he seems to be denying everything.

1 comment

  • […] The latter would be very good news, as South Africa’s image as a fair broker in the region has taken some serious hits based on Thabo Mbeki’s insistence that “quiet diplomacy” instead of condemnation was the appropriate way to handle the situation. His insistence that the situation did not constitute a crisis has led to some humorous responses, including a recent strip of Madam and Eve, a popular South African cartoon. (Tip of the hat to Muhammed Karim, writing on Global Voices.) […]

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