COLUMN: MARY REVESAI
Defence of Mugabe misguided
Speaking as they have done in the face of escalating tensions in Zimbabwe, the odd triumvirate’s action shows they have swallowed the Mugabe regime’s Nazi-style propaganda, whose tactics include attributing to one’s opponents what abuses one is perpetrating.
By choosing to speak out in support of Mugabe while trivialising his ruthless crushing of dissent, arbitrary arrest and barbaric battering of Morgan Tvangirai, Lovemore Madhuku, Nelson Chamisa, Sekai Holland, Grace Kwinjeh and the rest, the trio exposes the true colours of African leaders.
As demonstrated by Thabo Mbeki’s adoption of the ineffectual “quiet diplomacy” approach which allowed him to hunt with the dogs and run with the hares for a wasteful four years, African leaders are not really concerned about the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans. All they want is to appease Mugabe because he is doing what some of them have done and what others may want to resort to when their incumbencies are similarly threatened.
After the African Union, the Southern Africa Development Community and the international community have all condemned the madness being spearheaded by Mugabe, Zambia’s founding president had the gal to say the West had no “moral right” to express outrage over his reign of terror.
“President Mugabe should not be demonised, he will not accept any humiliation”, Kaunda declared.
Undaunted by the fact that his remarks had no relevance to the on-going onslaught against the opposition in Zimbabwe, Kaunda repeated the tired mantra that Mugabe was a victim of broken promises by Britain. “I wonder when I hear Tony Blair calling Mugabe names because it is him that caused this problem and the West has no moral right to criticise Mugabe.”
Kaunda’s misguided remarks were echoed by the ailing Chiluba and Sata, who have chosen to ignore the fact that the on-going atrocities in Zimbabwe have nothing to with land reform but everything to do with Mugabe’s determination to cling to power. He is behaving like wounded animal ready to gore everyone to death because he realises his position has become precarious even within his own party.
Those who coined the sexist adage that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned had never seen the last kicks of a cornered dictator! Kaunda and company are aware that the chickens could finally be coming home to roost for Mugabe despite their opportunistic attempt to boost his morale. It is preposterous that any one should be concerned about sparing Mugabe humiliation when he routinely humiliates and degrades fellow Zimbabweans by subjecting them to arbitrary arrest and savage attacks.
Kaunda must accept that the man he seeks to defend has ruined his country’s economy and reduced his people to paupers and scavengers. It is a slap in the face of suffering Zimbabweans for the Chilubas and Satas of this world to be anxious to express solidarity with a tyrant without showing any concern for the plight of the people who are at the receiving end of Mugabe’s repressive governance.
Moreover, the claim that the West has no “moral right” to criticise the Zimbabwean strongman is dishonest and hypocritical in the African context. It will be recalled that when the 1994 Rwanda genocide during which close to a million people were massacred occurred, African leaders were unanimous in condemning Western countries for their failure to intervene to stop the catastrophe.
Do Kaunda and company want the tensions in Zimbabwe to escalate into outright genocide before anyone comes to the rescue of the people of Zimbabwe? Kaunda must be aware that after failing to stop the genocide being instigated by Hassan al-Bashir’s regime in Sudan’s Darfur region, the African Union is appealing to the same Western countries he blasts on behalf of Mugabe for financial and material assistance to equip its ineffectual peacekeeping troops. Another begging bowl is being passed around for a peace-keeping mission in Somalia.
The otherwise widely respected Kaunda risks losing credibility by echoing Mugabe’s politically expedient denunciation of the West and Tony Blair and George Bush as the architects of Zimbabwe’s self-inflicted troubles. Kaunda must be honest and acknowledge that neither Blair nor Bush have forced Mugabe to embark on the war he is waging against the people of Zimbabwe for the sole, selfish purpose of ensuring his political survival and prolonging his totalitarian rule. At this late hour when factions have emerged in Mugabe’s own ruling Zanu PF to oppose his attempts to make himself Life President, it is disgraceful for the former Zambian leader to cite reasons why he should not be challenged and criticised.
Kaunda should know that the land issue that Mugabe regularly cites as the reason for the West’s condemnation of his repressive governance is a red herring. The current focus is on the abridgement of the freedoms of expression, assembly and association resulting from the arbitrary banning of political rallies. What does Kaunda have to say about the fact that these heavy-handed measures are being resorted to at the same time that Mugabe is vigorously promoting his candidature for presidential elections next year?
How does he feel about defending an octogenarian who has had his chance to prove himself over a period of almost three decades resorting to heavy-handedness to prevent other aspirants from presenting themselves and their ideas to the electorate?
Kaunda and African leaders in general remind me of the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible who went to the rescue of a man who had been attacked by robbers after several others had passed by on the other side. African leaders, as shown by Kaunda’s stance and that hitherto adopted by continental bodies such as the African Union and the Southern Africa Development Community do not only pass by on the other side while entire populations are brutalised by tyrannical rulers.
They sometimes go to the extent of preventing Good Samaritans from offering assistance and compassion they themselves are unwilling or unable to offer. Mbeki did it when through his “quiet diplomacy” he gave the Mugabe regime enough time to consolidate its repressive policies while leading everyone who believed he was acting as trouble shooter up the garden path.
After announcing publicly last year that he had thrown in the towel, Mbeki is prepared to revive his involvement. Mbeki, Kaunda et al should take a leaf from the book of current Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa who has been principled enough to call a spade a spade with respect to the Zimbabwean crisis. It is, indeed, ‘a sinking Titanic’.
Mary Revesai is a New Zimbabwe.com columnist and writes from Harare. Her column will appear here every Tuesday
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