Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

Peter Godwin on ‘showing Mugabe the door’

Posted by CM on April 3, 2007

Peter Godwin gets an opportunity to give his perspective on how hard it is proving to be for those who would like to see Mugabe gone in the NYTimes of April 3. Once again we see a high-profile author writing in a high-profile medium about “the Zimbabwe crisis,” but saying absolutely nothing new.

Godwin gives a chronology of Mugabe’s violent streak and how the West for much of his reign found it convenient to ignore it, as it has done with so many other despots. Basically the article is a hand-wringing exercise about how few options the West has against a Mugabe they detest so strongly. “Zimbabwe lacks the two exports necessary to interest the United States in direct intervention: oil and terrorism,” he writes.

He limp-wristedly closes with : “The real key to the Zimbabwe stalemate is to be found in South Africa, which has an economic choke hold on its landlocked northern neighbor.But thus far, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has refused to do anything about Mr. Mugabe. His policy of “quiet diplomacy” has, in truth, been a silent one. And he has paid a high price for such tacit support of Mr. Mugabe, whose embarrassing exploits ensured that Mr. Mbeki’s much-vaunted African Renaissance was stillborn.”

South Africa under Mbeki has repeatedly said they are not going to exert any economic, political or military pressure on Mugabe and there is absolutely no reason to doubt them. They have scrupulously remained faithful to that pledge, even when many think it is harming their own interests. However misguided many observers, including myself, believe Mbeki’s “solidarity” with Mugabe is, that very solidarity means Mbeki is only inclined to resist western pressure to “do something about Mugabe” even more. There is simply no way in which Mbeki can be seen to be bowing to US or British pressure to take a stronger line against Mugabe and still “save face” in Africa.

Surely Godwin must know this. Any analysis that does not take off from an acceptance of this reality does not help us to understand the situation better, or contribute much to ideas on how to move forward out of it to the western audience Godwin addresses with his article.

Chido Makunike

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