Her Excellency Ms. Lindiwe Mabuza
South African High Commissioner
South Africa House
London WC2N 5DP
22 January, 2004
South Africa's position on Zimbabwe
Nelson Mandela, in his autobiography “Long walk to freedom”, alludes to the recognition and hope that he drew from Margaret Thatcher's resolute policy of retaining sanctions on South Africa's apartheid government. For millions of South Africans this was a source of support, an external endorsement of their struggle during a dark and difficult time. Sanctions, of course, had both good and bad effects, but their ultimate success was that through international isolation they precipitated change.
Today, the parallels in Zimbabwe are all too clear. Zimbabwe is being steered by a president who manipulated his own election and is strengthening his powerbase through the selective application of terror. Groups of thugs wander the streets committing assault and rape under the watchful eye of the government and security forces. Activists, lawyers, MDC supporters and even opposition politicians have been tortured by the instruments of state. We are all aware of Zimbabwe's desperate economic plight. Numerous independent agencies have verified that atrocities are committed daily with the support of the Mugabe regime.
Today's Zimbabwe is a disaster, not just for the ‘former colonial powers' of the west, but for the people of Zimbabwe and for all citizens of the continent of Africa. Zimbabwe today lacks the singular component that is key to peace and prosperity in nations across the world – good governance.
In this context, it seems utterly remarkable to me that the great nation of South Africa is supporting President Mugabe. The net effect of President Mbeki's actions and pronouncements over recent years is clear for the world to see. South Africa is allowing atrocities to occur, supporting the dictator who perpetrates them, slowing international attempts to precipitate change, and betraying the spirit of Zimbabwean citizens desperate for external support in their struggle against the regime.
This stance is particularly surprising and disappointing to me and to many others for whom South Africa today symbolises something greater, more noble, in the order of nations. Citizen's rights are embodied deep within South Africa's modern constitution. South Africa achieved a remarkable and largely peaceful transition from apartheid with the support of people from all sides of the political and racial spectrum. Your nation's bold experiment in truth and reconciliation is an inspiring testament to the spirit of South Africa.
During my visit to South Africa I was inspired by the personal stories of its people as well as by its potential as a beacon for the development of the African continent. South Africa is a model for the basic infrastructure that good governance requires. Yet, today, I and many others strongly feel the travesty of South Africa's appeasement of the Zimbabwean government. This appears as nothing less than a betrayal of the African people, a squandered opportunity to stand strong and true to the beliefs that have shaped South Africa itself.
I write out of perplexity - a failure to understand why this great nation would behave as it does at this critical time. In this respect, I shall be delighted to hear directly from you. I am interested not only in the official government position, but also your personal thoughts on this position, and how this sits with your conscience and with your desires for the future of Africa. With your permission, I would also like to publish your response on the internet site where I am publishing this letter.
21 May, 2004: The embassy replies with a placeholder: