/ 22 July 2008

A tyrant of long standing

The Robert Mugabe regime did not, as some will argue, start off well and slowly descend into authoritarianism. It was always ruthlessly and violently intolerant of opposition.

There are at least four crimes against humanity for which Mugabe and his junta should be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

The first is the massacre of 20 000 Ndebele people in Operation Gukurahundi between 1984 and 1987.

The second is the Zimbabwean involvement in the second Congo war in support of the tyrant Laurent Kabila. The Harare junta entered the war with its eyes on the same wealth of natural resources that attracted the colonialists and Kabila duly rewarded Mugabe, his family and his allies with contracts in mining and logging worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But the financial cost of the war was borne by ordinary Zimbabweans — it destroyed the Zimbabwean economy. (The human cost was borne by ordinary Congolese.)

The third crime was Operation Murambatsvina in 2005. The eradication of shack settlements and informal traders from the cities affected more than two million people.

The fourth crime against humanity is the state-led campaign of violence, including rape, torture and murder, by which Zanu-PF stole a third election victory. Each of these crimes would, on its own, justify prosecution through the ICC.

In South Africa there is, at last, a consensus about the nature of the Harare junta. For years Cosatu has spoken against the regime and in support of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which grew out of the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions. There has also been condemnation from the SACP and some churches. But for years President Thabo Mbeki was silent.

Thankfully Jacob Zuma is now beginning to speak out.

But it is a sad and sobering fact that Mbeki was directly complicit in Mugabe’s theft of the first two elections and failed to take a stand against Mugabe’s attempt to steal a third. That this has been justified in the name of ”pan-Africanism” is particularly odious. After all it was that great figure of pan-Africanism, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, who took such a clear position against the Idi Amin dictatorship in Uganda. Mbeki has proved that he is no Nyerere.

In fact Mbeki’s failures with regard to Zimbabwe have, with domestic failures such as the Aids debacle — with the lack of a strong response to the Zimbabwe crisis from the African Union — smashed his vision of an African renaissance.

Imraan Buccus is a PhD fellow in the Netherlands, studying poverty and civil society