William M. Gumede at PostGlobal

William M. Gumede

South Africa

William M. Gumede is a former deputy editor of The Sowetan, Johannesburg. He is the author of the bestselling Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC. His new book, The Democracy Gap: Africaʼs Wasted Years, will be released in the U.S. in May, 2009. Close.

William M. Gumede

South Africa

William M. Gumede is a former deputy editor of The Sowetan, Johannesburg. more »

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Time to Intervene in Zimbabwe

Outside intervention now remains perhaps the only solution to save Zimbabwe from imploding.

The country’s strongman, Robert Mugabe, refuses to accept the outcome of the March 29 elections, which were held to simultaneously elect presidential, parliamentary and local representatives.

The main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, won the parliamentary elections -- whose results have been released -- decisively.

The as-yet unreleased presidential vote results show that the opposition won -- a result that independent monitors confirm. The MDC has declared itself the victor. Yet, Zanu-PF has delayed releasing the presidential results to sort out “errors and miscalculations”. And Mugabe has ordered the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to stop releasing further election results, and for good measure told the police to arrest senior electoral officials.

It appears that Mugabe wants to reverse the presidential result from a loss into a narrow, less-than-50% win -- which would require a second run-off for the opposition. The MDC has asked for help from the United Nations and the rest of the world. It will be shameful if their calls are ignored.

International intervention in Zimbabwe, were it to occur, would not be an Iraq-like regime change. The Zimbabwean people are asking the world for help. So far, Zimbabwe’s African countries have scandalously done nothing – by doing so, they only propped up Mugabe, and throw the long-suffering Zimbabwean people under the proverbial bus.

African leaders say they are worried about outside intervention and say neighbors should sort things out. Yet, for African leaders, "sorting things out locally" invariably means cushioning the local tyrant instead of helping the long-suffering people.

Most African leaders are democrats of the most basic sort. So they no doubt fear their own people will also rise up against them – and would like to be able to count on the support of neighboring leaders.

South African President Thabo Mbeki astonishingly says the situation in Zimbabwe is ‘manageable’. Other leaders agree. They argue wrong-headedly that the recent elections were ‘more peaceful’ than last time. Forget about the fact that Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF battered the opposition and starved them from outside funding during the campaign, that they banned all independent media, selected friendly election observers from China, Libya and Iran, and stacked the electoral commission with friends. Yet, they still lost the elections.

Should Zimbabwe be razed to the ground before the situation becomes ‘unmanageable’ in the eyes of Mbeki and his fellow African leaders? Their stance is absolutely disgraceful. Mugabe is trying to turn this into a war between Zimbabwe and the ‘imperialist’ West, supposedly a continuation of the war of liberation against former colonial power, Britain. In reality, it is nothing of this sort. This is a war waged by Zanu-PF thugs against defenseless Zimbabweans. The only beneficiaries of the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe are Robert Mugabe and his friends. The ordinary people who suffered the most from colonialism are now even worse off. In Zimbabwe, even the vote of the masses is limited, unless it goes to Mugabe.

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