The US and the world will hold SA to account for the ongoing political, economic and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, the Afrikaans daily, Beeld
, reports today.
The paper quotes US assistant secretary of state for African affairs Jendayi Frazer as saying in Pretoria yesterday that SA can expect strong criticism and pressure in the United Nations Security Council concerning its handling of the Zimbabwe question next month.
SA steps down as a non-permanent member of the UN at the end of the month after a controversial two year stint and will be replaced by Angola.
Frazer says SA spent that time protecting 84-year-old Robert Mugabe against international pressure.
The Associated Press
reports in its version of the conference that the US can also no longer support a proposed Zimbabwean power-sharing deal that would leave Mugabe, “a man who`s lost it,” as president.
“The new stance will put pressure on Zimbabwe
`s neighbours, South Africa in particular, to abandon its support for Mugabe. But South Africa said its position was unchanged”, the AP reports.
The US, Frazer says, has become convinced that Mugabe is incapable of sharing power. She cited political moves he has made since September without consulting the opposition, reports that his government has continued to harass and arrest opposition and human rights activists, and the continued deterioration of Zimbabwe`s humanitarian and economic situation.
The AP said Frazer was in southern Africa to inform regional leaders of the change in US policy, while Agence France Presse
said she was consulting them about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe where a preventable and easily treatable cholera epidemic has already claimed more than 1 120 lives and infected over 21 000 people.
Frazer says Mugabe is “completely discredited” and southern African leaders now want to know “how do they facilitate a return to democracy without creating a backlash like a military coup or some sort of civil war.”
Washington’s tough talk on Zimbabwe comes after Mugabe announced last week that Zimbabwe “is mine” and that he would never surrender to Western pressure to resign.
Mugabe, who has been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980, used his Zanu-PF party’s 10th annual congress this weekend to brush off the mounting international pressure.
“They now want to topple the Mugabe government. ‘Mugabe must go because Bush is going,'” he said, referring to US President George W Bush, who leaves office next month and is among the world leaders calling for his resignation.
“Zimbabweans will refuse that one of their sons must accompany Bush to his political death,” Mugabe said in his speech on Saturday.
If Zimbabwe`s neighbours were to unite and “go to Mugabe and tell him to go, I do think he would go,” she said, according to the AP.
But South Africa said in response that the only way forward was the agreement under which Mugabe would remain president and the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai would take a new prime minister`s post. “Our position has not changed,” said Thabo Masebe, a spokesman for South Africa`s president, Kgalema Motlanthe.
When the power-sharing agreement was announced in September, the US offered to lift sanctions and help Zimbabwe renegotiate relations with international lenders if the deal was implemented.
“We`re not prepared to do any of that now,” Frazer said.
adds that Britain’s Africa minister Lord Mark Malloch Brown this morning added that Mugabe has made the implementation of the power-sharing deal “impossible” and that he must now step down.
“Power-sharing isn’t dead but Mugabe has become an absolute impossible obstacle to achieving it.
“He’s so distrusted by all sides that I think the Americans are absolutely right, he’s going to have to step aside”.
Malloch Brown also renewed British calls for Mugabe to step down.
“If President Mugabe was to come to the UK and US or other third parties, his African neighbours, and say ‘I’ll go if I can be offered a quiet retirement’, I suspect people would look at what was possible,” he said.
“Either his people around him or political allies or people he’s in contact with in neighbouring countries really have to go to him in one of those famous political delegations and say ‘you’ve got to go'”.
The September agreement, brokered by then-SA president Thabo Mbeki, would have seen Mugabe remain president – despite a questionable election – while MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai would become prime minister.
Mugabe`s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party lost its Parliamentary majority for the first time since independence in 1980 in this March`s general election despite attempting to rig the vote.
Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in the same election, but apparently not by a sufficient margin. A run-off was scheduled for June, but Tsvangirai withdrew before the vote was cast after accusing the regime of violence against his supporters.
Mugabe`s re-election has not been universally recognised, with neighbouring Botswana and the US being among countries declining to do so. Tsvangirai is currently in Botswana and Frazer yesterday pointedly said Zimbabwe has not had a (lawful) government since March.
Mugabe says Africa lacks courage to oust him
Mugabe, meanwhile, says Africa lacks the courage to use military force to oust him.
reports the state-run Herald newspaper as publishing on Friday that Mugabe told a ZANU-PF central committee meeting Thursday that his fellow leaders lacked guts.
“How could African leaders ever topple Robert Mugabe, organise an army to come? It is not easy,” the newspaper quoted Mugabe as saying.
“I do not know of any African country that is brave enough to do that.”
Reuters says most of Zimbabwe’s neighbours reject military intervention in Zimbabwe. South Africa, the regional powerhouse, has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the idea. Western countries have urged Mugabe to step down but have not gone so far as to openly support using force.
The wire agency adds that many African leaders are reluctant to confront Mugabe, still viewed as a liberation-era hero on much of the continent. “But Zimbabwe’s deepening economic and humanitarian crisis and Mugabe’s poor human rights record has weakened African support.”
Botswana’s foreign minister and Kenya’s prime minister are among those in Africa who have called for an end to Mugabe`s 28-year misrule, the latter suggesting invasion. Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has also suggested he be removed by force.
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said the Southern African Development Community opened an investigation into the allegations when Mugabe’s regime first raised them last month.
But Motlanthe, the current SADC chairman, added: “We never believed that.”
SADC also includes Botswana, which dismissed the allegations last month and again when Zimbabwe officials raised them again this week.
The Zimbabwe opposition also has repeatedly dismissed the allegations, calling them part of a plot to create a pretext for declaring a state of emergency that would give Mugabe broad security powers.
Zimbabwe state media last week also reported the head of the country’s air force was wounded in what “appears to be a build-up of terror attacks targeting high profile persons, government officials, government establishments and public transportation systems.”
In another measure of that mistrust, Motlanthe said a SADC plan to send Zimbabwe humanitarian aid hinged on the creation of a new, nonpartisan agency being established to distribute food and medicine. Motlanthe said Zimbabwe had a history of allegations of aid being hijacked by politicians and not being distributed fairly.
“It is important for the relief to reach all people of Zimbabwe without being influenced by partisan interests, political interests,” Motlanthe said.
The SADC has proposed an umbrella aid agency that would include all political parties, international aid agencies, Zimbabwean farmers and others, Motlanthe said.
Zimbabwean state media today and yesterday reported that the country had received agricultural inputs from SA worth over R300 million. The Herald newspaper and the Sunday Mail quoted Zimbabwe’s Agricultural Minister Rugare Gumbo as saying Pretoria had sent, among other items, maize and sorghum seed, fertilizer and fuel.
“The seed being distributed is ideal for late planting and we expect to get some yields come harvest time,” Gumbo said.
But Motlanthe`s spokesman Thabo Masebe has already denied the report, telling the SA Broadcasting Corporation that Pretoria will only provide the assistance once the power-sharing government is formed.
The SA Press Association says
Zimbabwe has been unable to supply farmers with adequate agricultural inputs for the 2008/2009 season which is already under way.
The country’s agricultural sector effectively collapsed after 2000 when Mugabe stripped white commercial farmers and their black farm workers of their land in a violent land “restitution” programme.
The Herald also reported that the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) has launched a scheme meant to provide humanitarian aid and agricultural development to Zimbabwe.
It quoted SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao as saying the Zimbabwe Humanitarian Development Assistance Framework was meant to fight the cholera epidemic.
“The team realised that under the current situation, we cannot address the humanitarian assistance if we do not address cholera,” Salomao is quoted as saying.
“We are however on the ground in terms of cholera. The situation is difficult but we are receiving support from countries such as South Africa, Namibia and Tanzania, among others. It is clear that we cannot fail. Africa cannot fail on this in assisting Zimbabwe and the people,” he added.