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Posted on on July 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

South African President Thabo Mbeki, who decades ago forged ties between the exiled African National Congress and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, has so far failed in his bid to ease the longtime leader into retirement. He now Jeoperdizes more then his own legacy, he in effect has “low-jacked” the future of all of Africa.

Connection to Mugabe Threatens South African President’s Legacy.
By Craig Timberg, Washington Post Foreign Service , Tuesday, July 15, 2008.

JOHANNESBURG — At first glance they are nothing alike. Zimbabwe’s aging president, Robert Mugabe, is, at 84, among the last of a generation of African Big Men, clinging to power through brutal repression. South Africa’s suave President Thabo Mbeki, nearly two decades younger, rules by popular mandate as the elected leader of one of the continent’s most robust democracies.

But Mbeki’s long — and so far, failed — diplomatic bid to ease Mugabe into retirement after 28 years has tied the legacies of the two men together, and badly damaged Mbeki’s reputation as the exemplar of a new kind of African president. The leader President Bush described as “the point man” on solving the Zimbabwe crisis in 2003 now is widely regarded as an obstacle to freeing that nation from its steep descent into political and economic ruin.

“I think he’s part of the problem at the moment,” said Willie Esterhuyse, a Mbeki friend and a professor of political philosophy at the University of Stellenbosch.

Mbeki is one of a dwindling number of African leaders unwilling to publicly distance himself from Mugabe. The two men are products of strikingly similar worlds. Both are Christian-school-trained products of African liberation movements and have deep roots in communist ideology. Both have advanced degrees from British universities and rose within their parties on the strength of wits and political savvy rather than prowess on battlefields. Neither favors the traditional African dress worn by many of the continent’s leaders, appearing almost invariably in dark, tailored suits. And both enjoyed periods as favorites of Western powers, which for a time regarded each as skilled and cerebral alternatives to the populists common on much of the continent.
Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned commercial farms in 2000 also struck a profound chord in southern Africa, where much of the best land and businesses remain in the control of descendants of European settlers. At Mbeki’s second inauguration, in 2004, the crowd of friends, supporters and dignitaries loudly cheered Mugabe.

Such a reaction would be unlikely today, as rising repression in Zimbabwe chills even those sympathetic to Mugabe’s efforts to redistribute wealth and undo the legacy of colonialism. Mbeki is almost alone among southern African leaders in not publicly voicing outrage.

Biographer Mark Gevisser, in his book “Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred,” tells an anecdote that suggests an almost familial bond between the two men.

In 1980, shortly after Mugabe took power in Zimbabwe, Mbeki was there as an emissary for South Africa’s exiled African National Congress. One night, he stayed out late drinking in Harare, the capital. His frantic wife reported Mbeki missing, a worrisome development at a time when South Africa’s apartheid government was attempting to assassinate its opponents.

The next time the two men saw each other, Mugabe delivered a paternalistic scolding, waving his finger as he said, “Young man, you must tell us next time you don’t sleep at home.”

The African National Congress had traditionally favored a rival of Mugabe’s in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. But Mbeki, in those days in exile, forged a new relationship between the party and Mugabe’s new government. That connection still has a powerful hold on Mbeki, according to Gevisser, who said Mbeki remains convinced that he is essential to keeping Mugabe from growing still more brutal.

“Whatever happens, he has got to keep the door open,” Gevisser said in an interview.

Officials in Mbeki’s administration also have expressed deep reservations about Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Zimbabwean opposition. The former miner and union activist, though very popular in his country, has little formal education and has tried to organize the kind of internal political resistance that Mbeki’s African National Congress used to bring down apartheid.

Mbeki long has enjoyed closer relations with other, more-polished opposition leaders in Zimbabwe, including Tsvangirai’s rival, Welshman Ncube, a law professor.

In the just-finished election season, South African support was seen as crucial to the emergence of independent candidate Simba Makoni, Mugabe’s former finance minister, who broke from the ruling party to run for president. Tsvangirai was able to maintain his position as Zimbabwe’s dominant opposition leader — Makoni ended up with only 8 percent of the vote — but relations with Mbeki deteriorated further.

Mbeki “respects Mugabe,” said Tendai Biti, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change, Tsvangirai’s party. “He’s personally indebted to Mugabe because he looked after him during the struggle” against apartheid.

“Whatever exists between Mbeki and Mugabe doesn’t exist between Mbeki and Tsvangirai,” Biti said.

Mbeki’s approach has produced some moments that caused even supporters to cringe.

On April 12, when southern African regional leaders gathered in neighboring Zambia for an emergency meeting on the Zimbabwean crisis, Mugabe refused to attend but Mbeki met with him anyway, in Harare. Photographers captured the two men, dressed almost identically in suits, wearing necklaces of fresh blossoms, smiling broadly as they clasped hands like old friends. In a news conference that day, Mbeki questioned whether there was a “crisis” in Zimbabwe at all.

Also damaging was Mbeki’s attempt to host a mediation session on July 5, a week after Mugabe had declared victory in a reelection campaign that left nearly 100 opposition activists dead and thousands of others injured. Tsvangirai withdrew from the election and said there could be no negotiations until the attacks on his supporters ended.

Mbeki ignored that condition and invited Tsvangirai to meet with Mugabe at his official residence, a setting that opposition leaders said would have conveyed an air of legitimacy to the election. Tsvangirai boycotted the meeting.

Swazi election observer Marwick T. Khumalo, a member of the Pan-African Parliament, said that proposing talks at Mugabe’s residence showed “bad taste” on Mbeki’s part.

Despite the failure of that meeting, negotiations of sorts have begun in Zimbabwe, under the oversight of South Africa. Though the opposition dismisses the talks as having no promise until Mugabe ends his campaign of state-sponsored violence, both sides acknowledge that in a nation with annual inflation measured in the millions of percent, there may be no other course.

Yet Mbeki’s time for brokering a solution — and removing the stain of Mugabe from his own legacy — is rapidly dwindling. Mugabe, who continues to look remarkably vigorous for his age, could easily remain in office longer than Mbeki, whose second and final term as president is due to end in mid-2009.

Mbeki’s legacy in Africa is “in tatters,” said Karima Brown, political editor of the South African newspaper Business Day. “Thabo Mbeki is really yesterday’s man. He’s done.”


African Union: Suspend Sudan genocide charge.
By Steve Bloomfield in Nairobi, for The Independent, Tuesday, July 15, 2008.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court charged Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir, with genocide yesterday, accusing him of masterminding a campaign to “destroy” three tribes in Darfur, killing 35,000 people and persecuting 2.5 million refugees.

Sudan’s state television promptly showed footage of Mr Bashir dancing at a traditional ceremony, and dismissing the charges. “Whoever has visited Darfur, met officials and discovered their ethnicities and tribes … will know that all of these things are lies,” he said.

His efforts at building up a coalition of African, Arab and Asian support against the ICC also seemed to be paying dividends. Tanzania, which is chairing the African Union, called yesterday for the ICC to suspend the move “until we sort out the primary problems in Darfur and southern Sudan”.

“If you arrest Bashir, you will create a leadership vacuum in Sudan. The outcome could be equal to that of Iraq,” Tanzania’s Foreign Minister, Bernard Membe, said.

Arab foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the charges and Sudan will also seek the support of close allies on the Security Council, including China, Russia and South Africa. It is the first time the ICC, based The Hague, has sought the arrest of a sitting head of state. In his landmark case, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor, said a three-year investigation had proved that ultimate responsibility for crimes in Darfur rested with the President. “The decision to start the genocide was taken by Bashir personally,” he said. “Bashir is executing this genocide without gas chambers, without bullets, without machetes. It is a genocide by attrition.”

Mr Ocampo charged the Sudanese President with three counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and rape, and two counts of war crimes.

Armed groups from the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes launched a rebellion in Darfur in 2003, protesting at their marginalisation. Sudan’s response was a brutal counter-insurgency, in which civilians were routinely targeted by government forces and Janjaweed militia. While President Bashir did not directly carry out attacks himself, he was the mastermind with “absolute control”, the prosecutor said.

Hours after the charges were revealed, the BBC reported that the United Nations would withdraw all of its non-essential staff from Darfur. Prior to the indictment, there had been fears of a violent backlash against aid workers following protests in Khartoum.

Human rights activists welcomed the indictment. “Charging President Bashir for the hideous crimes in Darfur shows that no one is above the law,” said Richard Dicker of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

But some analysts felt that the prosecutor was “over-reaching”. Alex de Waal, a Sudan analyst at the Social Science Research Council in New York, said: “It will be very hard to prove he directly authorised these crimes.” Others said the formal genocide charge might give the UN additional leverage to hammer out a peace deal. “The Security Council now has the option of saying if there are substantial steps towards peace we can put the prosecutions on hold,” said Nick Grono, the deputy president of the International Crisis Group, a conflict analysis think-tank. “There is an incentive to the regime where there hasn’t been in the past.”

The onus now falls on the three pre-trial judges, from Brazil, Ghana and Lithuania, who will consider the evidence which Mr Ocampo’s team have collected and, if they agree, will issue an arrest warrant.

The charges against Bashir

*Three counts of genocide for killing members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups.

*Five counts of crimes against humanity for murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape.

*Two counts of war crimes for attacks on civilian populations in Darfur.


Mary Dejevsky: The UN fiasco over Zimbabwe is a re-run of Iraq – There was the touching faith in the miracles that can be wrought by drafting.

The Independent, Tuesday, 15 July 2008

No wonder a bit of an inquest is in progress. When Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe, they pitched many weeks of painstaking British diplomatic planning straight into the fetid waters of the East River. And if anything could have been worse for the British government than defeat, it was that Gordon Brown and his ministers had clearly banked on victory.

Surprise-avoidance being one of the prime objectives of diplomacy, this was a signal failure. A cardinal rule – and not only at the UN, but in parliaments everywhere – is that that if you are not confident of getting your way, you do your utmost to prevent a vote. And if a vote really cannot be forestalled, then you reword the document to make it harmless. Ministers and diplomats can spend many happy hours, days and even months in such prophylactic procrastination. This is part of their job.

So it is understandable that the search is on for culprits, and that those in the immediate firing line are busy looking for other targets. The Foreign Office minister, Lord Malloch-Brown – who, by the way, as a former deputy secretary general of the UN surely knows to the last dot and comma how the organisation works – extricated himself with particular ingenuity. The vote, he said, had exposed the real positions of Russia and China and was, therefore, not a bad outcome at all.

Now that the immediate shock of the vote has passed, two things have crystallised. The Government has – as it so often encourages the voters to do – “moved on”, and is taking its argument for sanctions to the European Union, a body for which the Prime Minister, who famously refused to be photographed signing the Lisbon Treaty, appears suddenly to have found a use. And the blame has settled – as it so often does – on the Russians as the real villains of the piece.

According to this, their new President, Dmitry Medvedev, was all too pleased to tag along with the rich world when it censured Zimbabwe at last week’s G8 summit, but when it came to the broader forum of the UN, then Moscow suddenly had other interests to consider. The Russians are therefore guilty at very least of changing their mind.

A more Machiavellian interpretation might be that they deliberately misled the British into believing that they would accept the imposition of sanctions, when, in fact, they were plotting to do the very opposite. There are several reasons why this rationalisation is unsatisfactory. The first is that, from the Russian perspective, signing up to the G8 condemnation and rejecting the UN resolution, are not actually incompatible positions. The second is that China, too, wielded its veto – and, given its interests in many African countries, including Zimbabwe, could hardly have been expected not to. But we don’t want to get on the wrong side of China, do we?

Especially not on the eve of Beijing’s showcase Olympics. And the third is that, in the matter of misreading the mood of the UN and its Security Council, Britain has rather distressing form.

Think back five years to the weeks before the invasion of Iraq and the frantic efforts applied by the British government to securing UN backing for the war. The warning resolution, 1441, was so expertly drafted – by Britain’s then UN ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock – that it allowed both supporters and opponents of war to vote for it.

Squaring the circle, however, only postponed the inevitable split and made the failure of the crucial “second resolution” that much more painful for Britain when it came.

All the very same weaknesses that combined to frustrate the imposition of sanctions on Zimbabwe were there for all to see over Iraq. There was the touching faith in the miracles that can be wrought by drafting – a skill on which Britain’s civil servants pride themselves, but which, if done too well, can come back to bite the author. There was the ill-tempered vilification of one country as the author of Britain’s misfortune: five years ago, it was France. As coincidence would have it, there was also an almost identical misreading of how Russia would cast its vote.

Defeat at the UN on Zimbabwe sanctions is both less and more serious for Britain than the failure to agree on a “second resolution”. It is less serious because sanctions are almost always of questionable effectiveness, and because the lack of the “second resolution” forced Tony Blair, fatefully, to choose between the UN and the US. But it is more serious because defeat last Friday broke what had been a promising international consensus on Zimbabwe and allowed an illegitimately elected President to exult in a victory over his old enemies. We had a chance to forge a common stance on democracy in Zimbabwe, and we failed – not because of Russian perfidy or the inadequacies of the UN, but because, once again, we did not appreciate how others see the world.

 m.dejevsky at


Leading article: Save the elephant from China – Britain poised to approve China ivory licence.
An Editorial – The Independent, Tuesday, 15 July 2008

If the People’s Republic of China is licensed as an official buyer of elephant ivory at a UN meeting in Geneva today, it will be one of the biggest setbacks to have occurred in international wildlife conservation, and a dire threat to the future survival of elephants in the wild both in Africa and in Asia.

China wants to be allowed to bid for ivory from four southern African countries – South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe – which were given permission to trade in ivory in 1997 in a misguided decision by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – only eight years after Cites member states, including Britain, had agreed to ban the ivory trade completely all around the world.

The 1989 total ban was seen as the only way to choke off the demand for ivory that was sending African elephant populations plunging at the hands of poachers. And it worked, and poaching declined sharply thereafter. The partial lifting of the ban in 1997 was a worrying development but, at least in the subsequent auction of 50 tons of ivory, the sale was limited to one country – Japan – as the other potential buyer, China, was regarded as having insufficient safeguards against illegal trading. Now another auction is in prospect, and China wants to join in, claiming that it has cleaned up its act.

To allow it to do so would be disastrous. It does not matter how tight China’s enforcement procedures now are. Overnight the world market for ivory would balloon, providing myriad opportunities for illicit ivory to be laundered into the legal stock, and offering temptation to poachers right across Africa, where at least 20,000 elephants a year are currently being illegally killed.

Disturbingly, the British Government, which has a vote in the meeting, looks as though it will go along with China’s wishes. Yet ministers will not come clean about Britain’s voting intentions. Yesterday they were engaged in that shabbiest of official procedures, hiding behind officials, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) claiming that the matter rested on the judgement of the Defra official at the meeting, Trevor Salmon.

To pretend that the British Government’s policy on a question of major international importance is dependent solely on the view of a mid-ranking civil servant from Bristol is laughable. The Biodiversity minister, Joan Ruddock, needs to spell out what her position is, as does her boss, the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn. Britain should vote firmly against allowing China to buy ivory. If it does not, and the bad times return for yet another threatened species, at least we will know where responsibility lies.

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One Response to “Thabo Mbeki Is Managing in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe To Undo The Great Mandela Promise For Africa – The African Union Stands By Sudan’s Bashir – Quo Vadis Africa? After the Old Colonial System – Now A New China Incursion?”

  1. andar909 Says:

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