NEPAD: Helping those who help Mugabe

Thursday 27 June, 2002  author/source: ZWNEWS published:Wed 26-Jun-2002

The West will be rewarding the men who helped Zanu PF to hold Zimbabwe down so that Mugabe could rape her


On Thursday, 27 June 2002, the G8 nations, meeting in Canada, will consider NEPAD – the New Partnership for African Development. President Mbeki and other African leaders have made it clear that they expect immediate and generous results: cancellation of debts, a long term aid package of over 700 million dollars, and acknowledgement of their right to police their own regional affairs without too much western interference. In return the West expects better governance. Both sides are keen to achieve a significant outcome. To do this both sides have to ignore the inconvenient corpse of Zimbabwe on the conference floor and the bloodstained, ranting spectre of Robert Mugabe crouched over it.

Sadly, this being Africa, there are a number of other ghosts flitting between the conference tables: the hangover from the Madagascar elections, wars in the DRC, in Sudan, Uganda and Senegal, corruption and religious strife in Nigeria, an increasingly horrifying famine in southern Africa. But none of these come close to symbolising the evils of African statesmanship in the way that Mugabe does. He has become a one-man cartoon book dictator – dismantling liberty, justice and economic viability to sustain his corrupt and incompetent regime. In once-prosperous Zimbabwe his people starve while he shuts down productive farms. Women turn to prostitution, and the inevitable AIDS virus, to keep alive as doctors flee and hospitals close their doors. Mothers and children look to the West that Mugabe despises to feed them. Behind these haunting scenes Mugabe’s henchmen plunder all there is left to plunder, pausing only to spit rhetoric that is Neanderthal in its racism.

So, NEPAD will be a chance for the West to recognise, and salute those African countries which have so roundly opposed Mugabe. Won’t it? Well, no, actually not. Only President Wade of Senegal has had the guts to criticise Mugabe and, although presidents Mbeki and Obasanjo were part of the Troika that expelled Zimbabwe from Commonwealth affairs, that gesture of sanity has long since been swallowed by their residual backing for Mugabe.

For this is the uncomfortable truth: these African leaders who will talk endlessly about review mechanisms, regional infrastructures and the link between poverty and democracy, these statesman who will damn any western leader who criticises African despotism, yet demand a share of his tax revenues, these have backed Mugabe all the way along his three-year tramp into the heart of darkness. The Organisation for African Unity unequivocally backed Mugabe in July 2000 and July 2001, it will do so again this year; SADC has backed him at every conference or summit since that held in Windhoek in August 2000. Presidents Moi, Mkapa, Mwanawasa, Kabila, Dos Santo and Nujoma gleefully endorsed Mugabe’s unashamed and ludicrously flagrant heist of the 2002 elections as, we might note, did the observers from South Africa and Nigeria. The African countries, led by South Africa, even found a place for Zimbabwe on the UN’s Human Rights Committee just two months ago. Think on that: Mugabe’s regime on an international Human Rights committee.

Supposedly sensible figures such as President Obasanjo of Nigeria and Foreign Minister Patel of Malawi have stolidly, resolutely laid the blame for Zimbabwe’s woes at the UK’s door. When Obasanjo, Chissano and Mbeki met in March to sketch out their expectations from NEPAD they studiously ignored the Zimbabwe crisis. The long-term and much-vaunted engagement of Mbeki, Muluzi, Obasanjo and Chissano with Mugabe has served only to prop Mugabe up and provide ammunition for Jonathan Moyo’s propaganda ministry. And there is, of course, that long-dead white elephant - the Abuja Agreement. That is the truth of it.

Why does the West, as represented by the G8, buy this? In part it is because the likes of Obasanjo and Mbeki play on the liberal sensibilities of the West, and of its leaders and much of its media, like so many stringed instruments. Thus Great Britain’s Tony Blair can contemplate a continent smashed by corrupt and incompetent governments and describe it as a ‘scar on the conscience of the world.’ Some leaders genuinely wish to help Africa and believe that confrontation will prove non-productive. Some will reach out for the handy platitude that we should not condemn them all for the follies of the one. Both are sentiments with which African leaders will, no doubt, eagerly agree.

Mugabe will not benefit directly from NEPAD. We should at least be thankful for that. Nothing will go to the criminal. But by rewarding African regimes the G8 will be pressing money into the hands of his fences and protection racketeers, his get-away drivers, touts and apologists. The West will be rewarding the men who helped Zanu PF to hold Zimbabwe down so that Mugabe could rape her. That, again, is the truth of it. And Mugabe will certainly draw strength from that, seeing that his friends need pay no price for their extraordinary and ill-conceived loyalty to him, as will the likes of Muluzi and Moi, both contemplating their own Mugabe-esque episodes. The British taxpayer is to be asked to buy comfort for those who are torturing his kith and kin and their dependants and imposing death by famine upon millions in the process. This is an extraordinary thing for Prime Minister Blair’s government to seek to sell to the British electorate.

All other such international packages have failed to prise Africa from the mire. Can we expect this one to be any different? Well, we could if NEPAD would pass just one test: the G8’s cornucopia should only begin to pour forth its bounty once Africa has condemned Mugabe and expelled him from its councils. Anything else is a fudge. Anything else just serves to benefit the swaggering thugs in the empty Zimbabwean fields, the obese politburo apparatchik in the Monomatapa Hotel, Mugabe himself and a long line of potential dictators, all waiting for their turn to have their way with their countries. But there will be no test. The African leaders will purr away in their motorcars, their eyes full of dollars, and the world, and particularly Africa and Zimbabwe, will be the poorer for it.

And then you and I can pick up the bill.