‘SA should switch off Zimbabwe power’

South Africa should threaten to switch off Zimbabwe's electricity if President Robert Mugabe's government continues to intimidate the electorate or contrives to sabotage presidential challenger Simba Makoni's campaign, a British professor says, writes Hans Pienaar in the Cape Argus, Cape Town.

Professor Gwyn Prins of the London School of Economics was one of the speakers on Tuesday at an Africa Dialogue meeting on the Kenyan crisis at the University of Pretoria.  The ongoing series is run by the Centre for International Political Studies.

 The doors of history were creaking on their hinges, Prins said of the “compound tragedy” that hit Africa when ethnic conflict broke out in Kenya after the December 27 elections.

Along with the continent’s failure to save the people of Darfur, and the poison spread by the failure to deal with Mugabe, Kenya’s collapse put South Africa on the spot.It was now the remaining military pivot on a continent with the worst peacebuilding capabilities.  Its external security has been destroyed, which will compel it to play a much more proactive role to protect itself against forces meaning to do it harm.

 “If you want peace, you have to prepare for war,” Prins said on Tuesday night. This would have to replace the dictum from the times of the Mandela presidency, “if you want peace, prepare for peace”.

 This meant that South Africa would have to change its military strategic policies, to enable it to develop expeditionary capabilities allowing it to act on its own to stop conflicts destabilising the region, he said.

 However, the South African army was “in a sad state” and this would not easily happen.

 Prins was particularly scathing about the SADC’s “puzzling failure” to rein in Mugabe.

 Prins said South Africa at the very least should proclaim that its infamous “quiet diplomacy” was a failure.

 Zimbabwe in effect did not have a president, as he did not govern the country.

 “Mugabe is an outlaw awaiting trial alongside Charles Taylor in The Hague. I hope Mugabe will answer for his crimes before he dies,” he said.

 He warned that endemic conflict south of the Sahara was now threatening South Africa.

 Zimbabwe could act as a toxin that would further poison the country, or it could become a vaccine, warning South Africa’s leaders off from following the same path. There were five million Zimbabwe refugees in the country playing a destabilising role, Prins said.

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