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'SA leaders, including Mandela, toothless to solve Zimbabwe crisis' - Not true, especially of the big man

13 Aug 2020 at 23:50hrs | Views
"So, why is it that Vorster could bring about real change, twisting Smith's arm to engage in negotiations with his liberation movement opponents that eventually led to a settlement and a transition to majority rule, and ANC governments – from the time of Nelson Mandela onwards – have been so toothless?" wrote Stephen Chan, in Spotlight Zimbabwe.

Whilst many people would agree that post independent South Africa's leaders have been "toothless" one cannot say the same of the big man himself, Nelson Mandela. He was one of the few African leaders who did not hesitate to take a fellow Africa leader head on - unheard off given the norm is for leaders to close rank and defend each other.

"On 27 November 1995, a calm voice issued this jarring statement on the BBC: "Abacha is sitting on a volcano. And I am going to explode it underneath him." It belonged to Nelson Mandela. He was 77, and had already been president of South Africa for a year. Mandela was referring to Gen. Sani Abacha, an obdurate and corrupt dictator in Nigeria who, in addition to still holding the winner of his country's presidential election in solitary confinement, had just executed the writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists from oil-blighted Ogoniland. The nine had been condemned by a military tribunal," reported Africa Renewal.

"Mandela was angry; Abacha had rebuffed Mandela's studiously private and civilised appeal for the release of Saro-Wiwa and his fellow activists. By doing so, Abacha had drawn the battle line, stoking the fiery passion for justice still burning in the breast of the aged champion of freedom: to his end Mandela lived by the dictum, which he articulated with great eloquence at his trial at Rivonia in 1964, that though he abhorred violence, he was willing to employ it to fight "tyranny, exploitation, and oppression."

President Mandela is publicly criticised Robert Mugabe for his tyrannical tendencies, he could not take any decisive action because he was no longer president.

Whilst there was plenty to criticise President Thabo Mbeki, President Mandela's successor, for his handling of the Zimbabwe crisis following the blatant cheating in the March 2008 vote and use of wanton violence run-off, Stephen Chan's description is off the mark.

"Zanu-PF struck back with a truly vicious campaign against the MDC, Tsvangirai withdrew from the contest, and Mugabe remained as president, controlling the levers of power. The ANC looked on, held its nose, and scuttled home to Pretoria saying the uneasy coalition it left behind was a job well done," he wrote.

The truth is President Mbeki did manage to get Mugabe to agree to the implementation of a raft of democratic reforms designed to dismantle the Zanu PF dictatorship and stop a repeat of the cheating and violence of 2008. Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC colleagues, who were entrusted the task of implementing the reforms sold-out and failed to get even one reform implemented in five years.

President Mbeki and then his successor, President Jacob Zuma and a few other SADC leaders, notably President Ian Khama of Botswana, did their best to remind MDC leaders to implement the reforms. Tsvangirai et al had the snouts in the gravy train feeding trough and paid no attention to nothing else.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is proposing that Mnangagwa and Chamisa go into a new power sharing arrangement. This is a complete waste of time because there is no reason to believe the two political parties will finally implemented the democratic reforms they failed to implement during the 2008 GNU.

"They (USA, EU, British and other western nations) are not likely to reenter the arena (as the Americans had done in 1976) and throw good money and effort at the Zimbabwean problem until they are convinced that something significant, some serious political change for the good, is likely to happen," argued Stephen Chan.

He is right there, the international community did not give Zimbabwe's 2008 to 2913 GNU their full backing; for example the west refused to lift all the targeted sanctions against Zanu PF leaders. A new GNU with the same Zanu PF and MDC leaders as the key players will indeed be a waste of time, effort and money.

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