Ongoing tragedy

2008-12-13 00:00

As the meltdown of Zimbabwe continues its protracted course, the danger grows that a kind of observer fatigue will set in. Just as Robert Mugabe’s claim that there is no cholera crisis now sounds like an ironic echo of Thabo Mbeki’s denial that there was any crisis at all a year ago, so a great deal of what needs to be said seems to have been said already, and with scant effect. Yet it does need to be said again.

Part of the tragedy of Zimbabwe is that so much of it has been the predictable, and predicted, consequence of the Harare regime’s actions over many years, and yet nothing meaningful has been done to divert Mugabe from his lunatic course. It would be an abrogation of duty not to maintain the pressure for effective action.

The prime concern must be for the suffering of Zimbabwe’s people and the restoration of a functional democratic state there, but this country has its own reasons to act. As predicted,

Zimbabwe’s disarray is spilling over our borders. Thousands of émigrés and the spurt of xenophobia have presaged greater costs to come. Action will be difficult, especially as the African National Congress still puts solidarity with former liberation movements ahead of the future peace and security of the region, but surely the leadership of southern Africa cannot continue to stand and watch as Zimbabwe collapses in complete chaos? An unequivocal statement of disapproval and a controlled squeeze by neighbouring states would be a long overdue first step.

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