mugabe.jpgPRESIDENT Robert Mugabe's ability to use international forums to get his way is the stuff of history books. Lancaster House in 1979, when he negotiated Ian Smith out of power, was the first sign that the man had abilities only the die-hard conservative and right-winger would deny.

Throughout the decade of the 1980s, the new Zimbabwe, under his
command, was painstakingly unambiguous in its commitment to
reconciliation and growing the breadbasket of the subcontinent. At that
time the leader of Zanu-PF was the toast of the world and governments,
left-wing groups, civil society and the world rightly awarded the man
and his acumen the accolades he deserved.

Today, all that has changed.

After 28 years in power, the man has become one of the most notorious
pariahs of Africa. He has become a callous despot. When The Namibian
editorialised about Thabo Mbeki's mediation efforts two months ago, we
predicted that they would not pan out. It now finally appears that the
mediation is doomed and that the Mugabe regime is bent on trying to
keep it alive to prolong its stay in power.

African voices, while silent for some time, have come to the fore and
have stated unambiguously that the man is way past his sell-by date.

Botswana President Seretse Khama has been the most outspoken of the
southern African leaders. Together with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond
Tutu of South Africa, Khama has called for the physical removal of
Mugabe. Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for an
international armed force to get rid of Mugabe and his cronies.

The ANC has been strangely ambivalent. Its alliance partners, the SA
Communist Party and labour giant Cosatu, have called on Mugabe to step
down. The ruling party in South Africa has previously stated Mugabe has
to go if there is to be any improvement in Zimbabwe. Now the ANC
praises, and sticks to the mantra that the Mbeki-led mediation must be
supported to get a unity government off the ground in Zimbabwe.

Most Namibian opposition parties want Mugabe to go.

The Swapo Party and the Namibian government have been deafeningly
silent about the slide in Zimbabwe, except to say they agree with the
mediation efforts – which has been read as complicity with Mugabe.

While considerably more African and local voices need to be heard on
Zimbabwe, The Namibian welcomes the statements from international
bodies such as Amnesty International and Open Society Foundation which
have added their voices to growing condemnation of Mugabe and the
recent abductions that have taken place in that country.

Behind the political crisis and health emergency, there is a worsening
human rights crisis in Zimbabwe, with the most recent development being
this unprecedented spate of abduction of human rights defenders, says
Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International. This shows the
audacity of a regime that is desperate to stay in power, no matter what
the cost.

While The Namibian is acutely aware of the different political agendas
playing themselves out in the voices of divergent and often
antagonistic groupings, the human rights situation and the growing
humanitarian crisis in that beleaguered country have been the direct
product of Mugabe's utter failure to listen to the voices of his own

We will continue to urge the African Union, the Southern African
Development Community and other top government leaders in Africa to
form a united front against Mugabe. This newspaper will not support an
invasion force to effect regime change in Zimbabwe, but we do
understand why democrats and socialists alike are calling on the
international and African community to support such a move.

The sooner Mugabe gets out of office, the better it is for regional
integration. The responsibility is to lift our people out of poverty
and Mugabe is a hindrance to these efforts.

Africa deserves better than a Robert Mugabe. He has effectively
destroyed any respect that he had as a liberation leader and we in
Africa cannot continue to support people who have been absolutely
corrupted by power.

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