More must follow Asmal’s brave lead on Zimbabwe (08-10-07)


Published:Oct 08, 2007

The harshest words said by a senior ANC politician about Zimbabwe.

Former education minister Kader Asmal has broken ranks with the government over Zimbabwe. Business Day has reported that Asmal

said in Cape Town last week that South Africa did not have the right approach to Zimbabwe.

He was speaking at the launching of the book Through the Darkness — A Life in Zimbabwe, by the daughter of former Rhodesian prime minister Sir Garfield Todd.

Asmal said that some of the actions of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe were akin to those of the Cambodian Maoist dictator and mass murderer, Pol Pot.

The Business Day report read: “He said the refrain that only Zimbabweans could decide their future was hollow in the face of an uneven political playing field and a lack of normality. He described the recent depredations of Mugabe’s security forces in Operation Murambatsvina [Operation Cleanup] as reminiscent of Cambodia’s killing fields.”

These are probably the most direct and harshest words said by a senior ANC politician on the Zimbabwean crisis.

Asmal went so far as to suggest that, if President Thabo Mbeki’s stuttering mediation effort fails, the UN should become involved.

Asmal condemned his own failure to speak out about Zimbabwe earlier: “Why do I speak now? I should have done so in the 1980s, when thousands of people were murdered by the Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland. I did not do so. Neither did I do so during Operation Murambatsvina, when those who want to retain power referred to their fellow citizens as ‘s**ts who have to be removed’.”

Asmal’s decision to allow his conscience to speak is a breath of fresh air compared to the stale and apologetic stance on Mugabe taken by Mbeki.

Mbeki should realise that there are many people who agree with Asmal in private, but fear to say so in public for reasons of political expediency. Those people must speak out now.

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