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Monday, 18 June 2007

Mbeki's quiet diplomacy is nothing but a hoax !!


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By Rebecca Mwaimbotinyi

(June 18, 2007)DEFENDERS of South African President, Thabo Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” in tackling the Zimbabwean crisis argue that this is the only approach likely to work in dealings with President Robert Mugabe.

This is despite the fact that this approach has failed to yield any results over the four years up to 2004 when Mbeki first acted as Africa’s unofficial trouble-shooter on the Zimbabwe crisis. At the end of 2004, Mbeki himself announced that he had failed to make any headway and was throwing in the towel.

He declared then that no country, not even South Africa, could “import” a solution to Zimbabwe and it was up to Zimbabweans themselves to figure out how break the impasse. But following his appointment by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) at an extraordinary summit in Dar es Salaam in March, Mbeki has apparently convinced himself that he can now broker a dispensation to end political tensions in Zimbabwe which have been intensifying since 2000.

One would have expected that after his first stint as peace broker failed to bear any fruit, Mbeki would have learnt a few lessons. One of these should be that despite his misplaced faith in it, a softly-softly approach does not work when dealing with a stubborn old fox like Zimbabwe’s 83-year old authoritarian ruler, who has been in power for almost 30 years. Obviously, after such a long stint, Mugabe is now so set in his ways both personally and politically that he needs a shock to the system, which does not have to be convenient and comfortable, to make him see sense. And what that shock might be is debatable but this is where Mbeki’s skills as mediator should be demonstrated.

Diplomacy, after all, involves tact and skill in the management of relations and disputes, not timidity. In an opinion piece published in the latest issue of The Independent, Joram Nyathi argues against what he calls “shouting” diplomacy, saying this has made Mugabe more obstinate, exacerbated economic decline and precipitated “an exodus of people who should provide pro-democracy forces with the critical mass, the brains and direction they need to achieve change.” He adds : “I have never received a convincing response when I ask colleagues who criticize Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy what they would rather he did. Political rivals can shout at each other.

That is the name of the game. They can’t be ‘quiet’ about abductions, torture and other forms of violence.” How true. But just as opposition politicians cannot remain silent when flagrant human rights abuses and atrocities are perpetrated against innocent citizens, neither should Mbeki. The fact that he is the mediator in the crisis does not mean that he should be tongue-tied about and blind to the very horrors his intervention is supposed to help end to ease the suffering of all Zimbabweans. Nyathi should not forget that what is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to remain silent.

Mbeki’s diplomacy has not been just been quiet. It has been totally mute, implying tacit endorsement of Mugabe’s repressive governance. Mbeki does not necessarily have to shout, as Nyathi puts it, for him to speak out on the ruthless crushing of dissent, flagrant violations of human right, abridgement of basic freedoms, the introduction of draconian press and security laws and the waging of violence by the state against the population as retribution for rejecting Zanu-PF at the polls.

I beg to differ with Nyathi’s claim that “the language of politics and diplomacy should be different. Blair and his allies failed for the same reason that they followed the advice of those who believe shouting constitutes a solution to a problem. He had turned himself into a local political rival.” Quiet diplomacy does not have to mean being deaf and dumb with regard to the issues that surround the situation to be defused as has been the case with Mbeki. He has been the point man on Zimbabwe for years but has never even once spoken out on the Mugabe regime’s abuses and excesses.

As a result, no one knows for sure if Mbeki actually abhors Mugabe’s tyrannical governance and whether he says anything to the regime. Moreover while Nyathi rails against “shouting” as having made Mugabe more obstinate, Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy has not moved the octogenarian either. If the truth be told, Mugabe is a stubborn old man, full-stop. He has not been made that way by anybody as accounts of his character even in his youth have shown.

More recent revelations, especially in Edgar Tekere’s admittedly controversial memoirs, confirm the same character flaws in the conduct of his political career. The manner in which he has bludgeoned everyone in Zanu-PF into submission on the succession issue is further proof that the man simply does not listen to anyone. Ironically, Nyathi unconsciously acknowledges this point when he writes: “The simple truth that Zimbabweans didn’t admit from the start is that there was nothing lawful which Blair, Mbeki or Bush could do beyond either whispering or shouting to make Mugabe change his thinking.

His barely plausible rhetoric about puppets, imperialist machinations and giving land to the poor kept him ahead of the competition and made his position virtually impregnable.” I find it incredible for Nyathi to argue that a man he himself describes as a master “shouter” and incorrigible rhetorician should be treated with patience and appeasement when the omissions and commissions he is accused of are matters of life and death for the suffering masses of Zimbabwe. Quiet diplomacy may work in dealing with minor issues but can never be acceptable when dealing with a brutal regime.

It may be true that Mbeki is the only leader in the region who has access to Mugabe but this access does not help anyone if the South African president uses it to collude with the regime in Harare. Mugabe has got away with unspeakable horrors all these years precisely because of the deference accorded to him by Mbeki and other African leaders. The Zimbabwean leader has openly boasted on a number of occasions that his mis-governance enjoys the backing of SADC and the African Union.

Mugabe often rants that Western countries have no moral authority to tell Zimbabwe anything about human rights and democracy because of their colonial past. It is time for Mbeki, the AU and SADC to call his bluff by openly declaring that they too abhor his despotic governance and calling for the observance of human rights and the rule of law.

Last Updated ( Monday, 18 June 2007 )

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TSVANGIRAI "TRAPPED" BY MBEKI AND MUGABE!

TSVANGIRAI "TRAPPED" BY MBEKI AND MUGABE!

MT "TRAPPED" BY MBEKI AND MUGABE!