May 8, 2007

Tutu slams African leaders on Zimbabwe

Africa should condemn human rights violations in Zimbabwe and South Africa should consider threatening action against its neighbour for its actions, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has demanded. Tutu said that he believed many Zimbabweans felt betrayed by the failure of African leaders to condemn to a widening crackdown on the opponents of the government of Robert Mugabe. The intensified repression followed the beatings by police of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and several dozen other officials of the Movement for Democratic change. "Many people in Zimbabwe now will be saying at the very least that there ought to be a universal condemnation of Mugabe," said Tutu. Africa seems "so reluctant just to call a spade a spade. Human rights violations are human rights violations," he said. Images of a battered and bruised Tsvangirai going to court triggered condemnation from Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler, the United States and other Western countries, but the response from Africa has been largely muted.
Tutu, who took on South Africa's apartheid government as the country's first black bishop, said African countries were unwilling to condemn the 83-year-old Zimbabwean leader because of his history as a "freedom fighter." Mugabe has traded on his legacy of helping end white minority rule and says he is being punished for taking white-owned commercial farms to distribute among blacks. While Tutu said he has the "highest regard" for Mugabe, he criticized him for "destroying an incredible country." His comments followed a public statement in which he blasted African leaders, saying that they feel ashamed for their silence on events in Zimbabwe. "Especially South Africa should say 'look here, we have tried to persuade you, maybe we ought to be beginning to threaten to turn off the tap'," Tutu said. President Thabo Mbeki has been singled out for particular criticism for his policy of "quiet diplomacy" toward Mugabe's government. Among other things, Zimbabwe is dependent on South Africa for the bulk of its electricity and any economic pressure brought to bear by Mbeki's government would have a huge impact on Zimbabwe's devastated economy. (Rts)

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