It was Winston Churchill who said that “jaw-jaw is better then war-war”, and most people would take for granted that, in situations where there is a danger that hostilities might break out, discussion among or with the competing parties is essential. But political life is not as simple as that. Nor are leading politicians always wise. One doesn’t know what is to happen in Zimbabwe, but at the time of writing the prospect seems bleak. If Mbeki had had the courage to act in a statesmanlike way, the situation would probably have been considerably less threatening. International crises always have far-reaching consequences. Besides the tragedy of Zimbabwe and its people, Mbeki’s mistake will have a devastating effect not only on his own reputation but also, far more importantly, on the prestige of southern Africa and indeed of Africa itself. There was a poignant irony as Mbeki chaired the meeting of the Security Council: he pleaded for Africa, but his silence on Zimbabwe undermined what he was saying.