Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A bear is most dangerous when it's dying

I'm presently reading a book about the attitudes of white southerners in the US in the years leading up to and during the civil rights' movement. This was a period of tremendous violence against blacks, predominantly because whites felt their privileged position threatened. Perversely, the privileged class felt that they, the whites, were the real victims. They felt that the civil rights' movement was driven by outside agitators who wanted to disturb the peaceful order of the elites and the submissive.

The dynamic was much the same in the dying days of white rule in South Africa. It was a little different, in that the ruling class was a numerical minority. But the fundamental dynamic remained the same: as the ruling class' hold on their elite status in society slipped away, their desperation turned to mindless violence to preserve the last vestiges of grandeur. When blacks gained equal rights, many formerly dominant whites whined (and continue to do so) about blacks gaining "special rights." Special rights like being treated as full-fledged citizens, as civilized human beings

I thought of these two cases as Bob Mugabe and his corrupt cronies desperately cling to power. While Mugabe's despotism is not based on skin color (though blacks are the main victims of his savagery), the oppression inflicted by his regime is just as criminal as apartheid's and segregation's.

The fact that Mugabe was one of the key player in supporting anti-apartheid forces in South Africa would be ironic, if his misrule weren't so destructive.

But just as in the southern US and in South Africa, Mugabe and his cronies are cranking up the violence in a desperate attempt to maintain their power.

While his assassination attempt on the main opposition leaders is hardly the first act of brutality against the regime's opponents, it is probably the most audacious. In the past, harassment against key opposition figures has been couched in pseudo-legal kangaroo trials. That the regime has gotten so brazen is a sign that it seems its thieving opulence threatened.

The crisis has been met by meek acquisence by both the African Union and by regional power South Africa.

The AU called for a 'constructive dialogue' and assured the world that it was watching events in Zimbabwe with 'great concern.'

The South African government, in line with its discredited 'quiet diplomacy' sham, got on its knees and pleaded with Bob to 'ensure that the rule of law including respect for rights of all Zimbabweans and opposition leaders is respected.'

(This column in South Africa's Daily Mail and Guardian has a good analysis of the Mbeki government's impotent, servile relationship with Mugabe)

I'm sure these two declarations are making Bob tremble in his jackboots. In fact, he responded by telling his critics to 'go hang.'

Traditionally, most African leaders have been loathe to criticize Bob because of his role in the anti-colonial struggles in both Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and South Africa. Apparently that gives him carte blanche to replace white-led oppression with black-led oppression. But not all prominent Africans are quite so cowed by bully Bob.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a prominent anti-apartheid campaigner in his own right, denounced this complacency by saying that African leaders should "hang [their] heads in shame."

The Nobel Peace laureate asked, "How can what is happening... elicit hardly a word of concern let alone condemnation from us leaders of Africa?"

Adding, "What more has to happen before we who are leaders, religious and political, of our mother Africa are moved to cry out 'Enough is enough'? Do we really care about human rights, do we care that people of flesh and blood, fellow Africans are being treated like rubbish, almost worse than they were ever treated by rabid racists?"

Even the head of the main South African trade union alliance, a close ally of the ruling African National Congress, bemoaned the obvious failure of Mbeki's 'silent diplomacy.'

Ghana's president John Kufuor bemoaned the current state of affairs as “tragedy for the people of Zimbabwe.”

Zambia's president Levy Mwanawasa compared Zimbabwe to a "sinking Titanic." He should know. Zambia is Zimbabwe's northern neighbor and thus a likely destination of many fleeing the disastrous political and economic in Mugabeland.

Mwanaswasa admitted that while Zambia had also tried quiet diplomacy, "the twist of events in the troubled country necessitates the adoption of a new approach."

"Quiet diplomacy has failed to help solve the political chaos and economic meltdown in Zimbabwe," he added.

He is the first leader in southern Africa to speak candidly on the crisis.

Some argue that Mbeki has no influence on Mugabe; that he can advise the despot, but not pressure. This piece belies such suggestions.

The Daily Mail and Guardian reports that Under apparent pressure from South Africa, President Robert Mugabe will submit himself to a popular presidential election in 2008 rather than extend his term for another two years.

Mbeki didn't want controversial elections in Zimbabwe to embarass him during South Africa's 2010 hosting of the world's most popular sporting event, the soccer World Cup.

Though that same article interestingly reported that Insiders say Mugabe no longer has a firm grip on power and that securocrats are running the show. Last week’s brutal beating and torture of opposition MDC activists has further exposed growing fissures within government and the party, with key dissenters blocking further unconstitutional action.

Update: Further evidence of how desperate the brutal regime is. They have imported some 2500 mercenaries(paramilitary police) from Angola to back their own apparently divided insecurity forces.


At 9:53 PM, Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Really tremendous post.

I think the left should be more vocal against Mugabe, at the same time not denying his earlier progressive role. It's time for him to exit.

At 10:54 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Renegade, I agree. Though in fairness, I think the western left has been fairly vocal against Mugabe. It's Africa's domestic intelligentsia (Africa doesn't have quite the same left-right dichotomy as the west) that has been criminally quiet on Zim. I'm not sure how progressive Mugabe ever was, except to the extent that he helped get rid of colonialism.


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