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Wednesday, 6 June 2007

How clueless Blair plunged Zimbabwe into disaster!!!!


By Daniel Fortune Molokele

Last updated: 06/04/2007 11:29:15

HE CAME over, he saw, he met some dignitaries but did any of the at least two million Zimbabweans that are presumed to be now living in South Africa notice? No, not at all!

His presence was to all practical purposes and intents a huge non-event to almost every Zimbabwean here in South Africa. Having said that, I must also confess that I also struggled to wiggle out of my daily routine and appreciate his presence in Mzansi. Sadly for him, I am so sure that I was part of the indifferent majority.

Yet this was supposed to be the biggest story of the week. Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, the soon to be former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was in town last week. This time, his visit was part of a carefully selected three nation tour that took him on a whirlwind trip to Libya , Sierra Leone and of course Mzansi!

Unlike the many disappointed Zimbabweans, many Sierra Leoneans are vociferously grateful to Blair. He is credited for helping to end the madness of the country’s bloody civil war. In 2000, 800 British troops arrived in Freetown to evacuate British citizens and secure the airport for UN peacekeepers. They were quickly drawn into fighting RUF rebels and helped end the brutal 11-year civil war. Under Blair, Britain has been Sierra Leone's largest bilateral donor, annually giving $79 million in aid and $24 million for a military presence to train the 10 500-strong army, which has undertaken five coups in the recent past.

But it was the visit to Libya that was perhaps the most significant of the three. It by and large encapsulates his most noteworthy diplomatic accomplishment during the entire ten years at the helm of British politics. On May 2, 1997, when he assumed political office amid the euphoria of his landslide election victory to become the first Labour Party Prime Minister in 18 years, Blair could not have in his wildest of imaginations ever presumed that he would wine and dine freely with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi as part of his farewell tour to Africa. One might even add that in Tripoli of all places!

But to his credit, Blair managed in his tenure not only to resolve the long standing impasse created by the aftermath of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing saga, but also led the process of ending the isolation of Libya. Further to that, he also facilitated the diplomatic re-integration of Libya into the bosom of the leading Western nations. Even the United States of America managed to restore full diplomatic relations with Libya! It was a classic lesson for all students of political science of the time approved notion that says that ‘in politics there are no permanent enemies’. As I write Libya is no more the great pariah that it used to be in 1997 when Blair assumed office.

But then ten years is such a very long time in politics! In an almost paradoxical twist of events, Zimbabwe had the very apposite experience during the Blair years. When Blair assumed office, Robert Mugabe was one of the most acclaimed statesmen in Africa.

He was a celebrated darling of the Western diplomatic community. The evidence of this adulation was all there to see in Zimbabwe. Almost every prestigious university especially in the UK and USA was falling over the other in the race to confer Mugabe honorary degrees. He also received several international awards. Not to mention that her royal highness herself, Queen Elizabeth II, also made him a member of one of the orders of her ‘empire’. There is no doubt that on May 2, 1997; Mugabe was still at the peak of his diplomatic glory.

Roll over to May 2007, how things have dramatically changed!

When Blair planned his itinerary for the farewell to Africa tour, he must have thought about the idea of including Harare on his list. But just for a moment! Inevitably, he had to accept that Harare was a no-go area for him. The decision not to include Harare was not negotiable. It was an inevitable culmination of his decade’s long policy of isolating Mugabe and Zimbabwe diplomatically. Thanks to Blair’s efforts, Zimbabwe has now become such a pariah in the eyes of most Western diplomatic sections.

In the almost spectacular manner in which Blair led the Western powers into embracing Libya, by the same measure he led the process of isolating Zimbabwe. While his policy for Libya was constructive re-engagement, his policy for Zimbabwe was deconstructive dis-engagement. When it came to the southern African country, Blair opted to ostracize Mugabe and his Zimbabwe.

The question we need to ask is simple. Did Blair’s strategy to isolate Mugabe benefit the many millions who continue to suffer under his now 27 years of never ending tyranny? The answer is a resounding NO!

During the ten years under Blair’s tenure, both the Zimbabwean political and socio-economic crisis has taken a turn for the worse. The cruelty and brutality of the Mugabe regime has had a massive negative accumulation. But even more telling for Blair, the number of Zimbabweans who have left Zimbabwe between 1997 and 2007 is by far bigger than the number of those who did so between 1890 and 1980.

Added to that, the number of the British citizens who left the coldness of the island for the warmth of the Rhodesian colony between 1890 and 1980 is by far less than the number of black Zimbabweans who left the independence of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe for the freedom of Blair’s Britain. To think that this is against the background of tightened measures for the visa system to the UK!

As Blair’s jet landed down in Tripoli, the dry desert breeze that welcomed him largely represented the tranquillity and serenity of his diplomatic success in North Africa. But as his plane jetted down into Mzansi, the choking stink emanating from the stranded Zimbabweans at the nearby Marabastad Home Affairs department offices, represented his failure to help find a lasting diplomatic solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe. It is so sad that the number of Zimbabweans who have crossed the Limpopo River in the 1997 to 2007 period by far outnumbers the number of those who crossed over between 1890 and 1980!

This then explains why Blair had really nothing to say about Zimbabwe. The man is just stranded like every one of us who made the choice to join him in the isolation process of the country. The man has no plan for Zimbabwe at all. The man is utterly clueless!

In the end, he handed over full responsibility to Thabo Mbeki, the very same man who had stood by Mugabe through thick and thin. The very same man who, through his policy of ‘quiet diplomacy’, has maintained full diplomatic relations with Mugabe. The very same man who together with his cabinet ministers has defended Mugabe from further isolation be it at SADC, AU, G77, and NAM or even at UN level.

It was so sad to see Blair, stand next to Mbeki and publicly endorse him as the best placed person to take the issue of finding a lasting solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe. The juxtaposition of the two men at a Pretoria press briefing marked the final confirmation of Mbeki’s failure to help Zimbabwe at all. Mbeki has always insisted Blair’s policy of “shouting” at Robert Mugabe was making the situation worse. For Blair, therefore, to throw his full weight behind Mbeki’s policy of engagement is an admission of failure, and a grudging acceptance that engagement (read quiet diplomacy) triumphs over “shouting”.

As he leaves 10 Downing Street, Blair has no file to hand over to his successor. The new British Prime Minister will have to inherit nothing from Blair concerning what to do with the worsening crisis in Zimbabwe. Maybe there are positives. The new British Prime Minister will get a chance to draw up his own programme.

In the meantime, it has become such an anathema and political suicide to be associated with Blair in the Zimbabwean political landscape. Both factions of the divided opposition MDC were at pains to distance themselves from Blair. The Arthur Mutambara-led MDC issued a strong press statement denying the State media allegations that they had flown over to Pretoria to meet Blair. No-one wants to be associated with Blair’s legacy of failure over Zimbabwe. Absolutely no one!

It is thus no wonder that as his jet flew out of South Africa, to the at least two million or so Zimbabweans he left behind him, there was hardly anyone who had bothered to see him off at the airport. There is no doubt that Blair’s strategy on Zimbabwe has failed the millions of Zimbabweans both at home and abroad. And so from now on, the only Blair many millions of Zimbabweans, especially those based in the rural part of the country may choose to freely associate with is none other than the good old and reliable Blair Toilet. So long Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. So long!

Daniel Molokele is a Zimbabwean Human Rights Lawyer who is based in Johannesburg. He can be contacted at

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I look for "The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" at all times.