South Africa could use its economic power to draw Mr. Mugabe’s rule to an end in weeks rather than months. Yet Mr. Mbeki has steadfastly refused to act, providing a protective cloak for Mr. Mugabe’s repression. And just a few weeks ago, even as opposition members were being tortured, Mr. Mbeki visited Zimbabwe, allowing himself to be garlanded at the airport and displayed on state-run TV with a broadly grinning Mr. Mugabe. In the United Nations Security Council, where South Africa currently has a seat, Mr. Mbeki has opposed attempts to put the political situation in Zimbabwe on the agenda.
If Mr. Mbeki’s cost-benefit calculus has been such that he hasn’t seen it necessary to take tougher action, perhaps it’s time to change that calculus. Perhaps, for example, now is not the time for you to book a safari to South Africa. Or for you, or any institution that manages your funds, to make new investments in the country.
Most important, there is the FIFA soccer World Cup, for which South Africa is to act as host in 2010. That may seem like a long way off, but South Africa is already investing huge amounts both financially and politically, for what is supposed to be its triumphal coming-out party. Maybe Zimbabwe should become to the South Africa-hosted World Cup what Tibet has been to the Beijing Olympics — the pungent albatross that spoils every press conference and mars every presentation with its insistent odor.
Perhaps it’s time to share the Zimbabweans’ pain, to help persuade Mr. Mbeki to bear down on its source by threatening to grab the world’s soccer ball and take our games elsewhere.
Mbeki even tried to stop the UN discussing Zimbabwe in the last two days. It has a seat on the Security Council at the moment yet seeks to appease an evil dictator at every turn. The one thing Mbeki cares about is the 2010 World Cup. I'm not suggesting a boycott, but the international community has leverage here.
Sport is sport. Politics is politics. The two shouldn't be confused. That is a terrible idea, Iain.
I wonder if 'The Special AKA' will release a 'Free Morgan Tsvangirai & the people of Zimbabwe' single? Isn't it funny how the 'racism movement' doesn't seem as het-up about a 'murdering black regieme' instead of a 'slightly less vicious and invidious white regieme'? What was so special about interviening in Kosovo and NOT interviening in Zimbabwe? The entire situation is farcical. I see Mr Tsvangirai did not seek asylum in the South African embassy. I wonder why....
Never going to happen, South Africa would be castigated and probably thrown out of FIFA for allowing the government to interfere in sport.
I'm sure that there will be 100 response below saying 'humanity is more important than sport'...of course, but the world cup represents an opportunity for South Africa for infrastructure development etc.
We all missed an opportunity to do something about Mugabe a long time ago and it's not fair to just expect South Africa to step up and tackle him.
Peter Godwin you have just identified the pressure point. Of course we should boycott the games.
Mbeki is an accessory to the fact of a wholesale political murder campaign.
SAfricans wake up to Mbeki. You are the next Zimbabwe unless you can convince your leaders to act like members of the human race as opposed to members of the African political elite.
And not a word from Saint Nelson. What is the message Mandela? Better to be loyal to Mbeki and pay with the blood of a 100,000 Zimbabweans. Shame on you Mandiba. Another example of African myopia.
I genuinely applaud the sentiment Iain but in comparison to Burma, Darfur, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and maybe the renditions that we've been complicit in through Diego Garcia, i'm finding it difficult to get roused by a siphilitic despot who's gonna get lynched through economics.
Yeah, it's bad but on a scale of one to ten - it probably hits two and a half at the moment. No one has come up with a viable plan. Can't we do a Libya circa 1984 and pay Tanzania a few more bungs through BAE?
The reason Mbeki won't do anything worthwhile is because China has quietly developed huge economic interests in southern Africa over the past decade. For whatever reason, China is not currently minded to force Mugabe's removal - so it is not in South Africa's interests to do so either. Mbeki is caught up in realpolitik and the target for diplomacy should be China, not South Africa or SADC.
An OP-Ed in the New York Times I can entirely agree with? This could be a first.
Absolutely spot on Iain. That disgusting regime is quite illegitimate. And I've a nasty feeling that South Africa will go the same way given the chance. It's high time we took the gloves off and made it abundantly clear to Mbeke that if he does what is right he will be rewarded. And if he doesn't then there will be consequences.
Does Zuma care about football?
Mbeki is gone in less than a year.
A quiet or not so quiet word in Zuma's shell like might be more effective.
Mbeki is now just a tired, dead duck, socialist black power activist who cares more about solidarity with his black empowerment brother Mugabe than the people of Zimbabwe (or of S.A. by all appearances).
For what it's worth I think Zim today is S.A. in 20 years unless the ANC goes through a profound rebirth.
(p.s. I hope you are feeling better now Iain).
Mbeki is very odd - his suggestion that Morgan Tsvangirai & Mugabe should govern together is absolute rot.
Morgan Tsvangirai is more likley to survive a pint of HIV-infected poison than getting into bed with Mugabe. After all, soapy water cures AIDS in his view.
After Mandela these other coves are quite a contrast.
There's also a splendid piece by Gideon Rachman in today's FT. He makes two strikingly pertinent points, with regard to Thabo Mbeki's contemptible feebleness:
 It was the withdrawal of 'white' South Africa's support for the Smith régime which brought Rhodesia to the negotiating table.
 Many people are starting to worry that Zimbabwe today may be South Africa in 20 years time.
Mbeki's a dead loss. Domestically he is finished. And internationally his word carries little weight. SA is touted as the regional super power, and yet it has been unable to prevent Zimbabwe becoming in effect a failed state. They've had their chance and failed to rise to the challenge. Who gives a bollock what they think?
Only a Sierra Leone style intervention will stop the rot now. The problem is, for Brown the self-styled champion of Africa, British forces are already over-stretched because of his ruthless cuts. A terrible irony.
Sometimes I wonder if any of us are really civilised.
We used to boycott South Africa because of the way South Africans were treated. Now it is proposed we boycott South Africa because of the way Zimbabweans are treated?
Get real! Let's assume that Mbeki rolls up tomorrow and says @OK boss, the game is up, pack your bags and come home with me' - do you really think that Mugabe would say "OK, fair enough, pass me my suitcase'.
No, he would just say 'F*** off Thabo my old mate - I will leave office in a box and not before"!
Forget South Africa, send in a few black SAS boys or American Special Ops under cover, laser sight the scumbag, pull the trigger and then let the fall out begin.
Then we put pressure on South Africa to allow the civilised world to use it as a landing strip for taking in essential food aid and African peackeepers in!
This is way past diplomacy. If we do actually care enough and want to 'do something' (and enough will argue that we should, although many will say it's not our job), we need to understand this has the potential to be a Rwanda or a Bosnia if we simply wait for the useless and I suspect currupt Mbeki to take a stand.
Take away his toys by all means, but understand that he can actually achieve nothing - Mugabe is a rule unto himself.
Mbeki isn't being weak; he is an ally of Mugabe and has been very strong in his defence of the Zimbabwean dictator. He was also very keen, if you remember, to get that arms shipment from China to Zimbabwe via South Africa and was only stopped by his own people.
Also isn't Mbeki's sister-in-law married to Mugabe or something?
I agree with the other trolls that a sport event perhaps isn't the best vehicle to register our displeasure. We should be much stronger. Milliband's announcement yesterday that we wouldn't cut diplomatic relations whatever Mugabe does was craven. We should also consider economic sactions against South Africa as well. This is totally justified as South Africa continues to support Mugabe directly, both materially and at the UN.
Also as mentioned by anon 2.39, China is the other key player in Mugabe's developing genocide (as well as Sudan, Iran, N. Korea etc). China makes nothing that we can't buy elsewhere at similar prices. Equally there are just as good or better investment opportunities elsewhere (such as in India). Why need to start publically questioning why we are indirectly funding every evil despot in the world via our trade with China.
Good you’re back , thought you might be sulking about that " Jealous of Boris" stuff (I jest).
I just wonder if, after Iraq , how many in power have concluded that the hand wringers have no stomach for it .The moment things get sticky and that intervention of the only sort that Mugabe will care about cannot be sustained with any exit strategy being nightmarish.
ffs, when will people realise that the reason why SA won't do the 'right' thing is that their president's wife is the sister of mugabe's wife.
like most of the political elite around the world, the power is shared around to friends and family or in the case of the US and North Korea ... kept in it.
If you are interested in Zimbabwe, read Peter Godwin's book 'When a Crocodile Eats The Sun', about his parents' last years in his native Zimbabwe; it demonstrates the development of Mugabe's despotism and the devastation of this wonderful country.
The UK cannot take direct action in Africa, but it can sever economic and cultural ties.
What happened to Mandela?
I have always thought the left adore him as a symbol of victimhood and brotherhod rather than leadership. He's not leading now just happy in his role as a celebrity being "solid" with his brothers.
Just leave them alone Iain and after a few genocides Africa might come to its senses.
The situation in Zimbabwe is bad but it's not Darfur / Tibet etc. My Zimbabwean au pair has just gone home for a 2 week holiday....
"Sport is sport. Politics is politics. The two shouldn't be confused. That is a terrible idea, Iain."
Harry Haddock - You're right, sport is sport, and politics is politics, but morality encompasses all.
Some things are so important that they trump everything else. And sometimes it comes to war, in which case lives are lost. If a football tournament can be used as leverage then use it - and if it means cancelling the tournament, then could you really complain, considering the weight of political genocide on all our consciences?
Mbeki's problem is similar to Mandela's, but somewhat less excusable.
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