27 December 2008

The Dictator, The Bishops, and the Trade Unionists

Church leaders have criticised the South African government for being too chicken to confront the Fuehrer of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, over his stealing of elections and his war against his own people. And Mugabe himself has taunted his neighbours, saying that none of them is brave enough to remove him.

The Times - Tutu: Threaten Mugabe with force:
Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu said that the international community must use the threat of force to oust Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe from office.

Tutu told BBC radio that he hopes African Union members can be persuaded to issue Mugabe an ultimatum, threatening to intervene if he continues clings to power in the ailing nation.

Asked if Mugabe should be removed by force, Tutu said there should 'certainly be the threat of it.' He said Mugabe should also be warned that he could face prosecution at the International Criminal Court for his violent suppression of opponents.

And, from South African Catholic bishops -- The Times - Bishops blast SA for protecting Mugabe:
In a statement issued by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier , the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference said Motlanthe should force Mugabe to leave office because talks aimed at forming a Zimbabwean unity government have failed.

“It is now time to isolate Mugabe completely and to remove all forms of moral, material or tacit support for him and his party. Regardless of whether he is a former ‘liberator’ or an ‘elder African statesman’, he must be forced to step down,” Napier said.

What this reveals, however, is the confusion in South African politics, especially in the ANC.

A year ago the ANC conference at Polokwane rejected Thabo Mbeki as president of the ANC, and elected Jacob Zuma instead. Zuma was supported by the trade union movement in the form of Cosatu.

Cosatu had been at odds with Mbeki over several issues, including Zimbabwe. A Cosatu fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe was turned away by Mugabe's government. Cosatu's natural ally in Zimbabwe is Tsvangirai's MDC, which has its support primarily among the urban workers and the Zimbabwean trade unions. Yet the ANC government in South Africa does not seem to have changed its policy towards Zimbabwe since Mbeki's departure, which seems to indicate that Zuma has drawn Cosatu's teeth, and the trade union movement in South Africa is now Zuma's lap dog.

Whether the South African government should threaten to use force to remove Mugabe is a moot point. The record of other violent attempts at regime change over the last few years is not good. The Nato war on Yugoslavia and the US wars on Afghanistan and Iraq have done nothing to improve things, and instead have made things worse. As someone pointed out, it is not ancient hatreds that cause wars, it is wars that cause ancient hatreds.

But the South African government has failed even to voice criticism of Mugabe's stealing of elections and abuse of power. According to election observers, they were under pressure to declare elections free and fair when they knew they were not. And now Cosatu seems to have been coopted into the power structure too. Only the church leaders are left to speak out.

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