Tutu attacks Mbeki's stand on Zimbabwe

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The Independent Online

The former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu has warned that South Africa's credibility is at stake over its failure to criticise human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

"The credibility of our democracy demands this," he said in a statement yesterday. "If we are seemingly indifferent to human rights violations happening in a neighbouring country, what is to stop us one day being indifferent to that in our own?"

At the recent Commonwealth summit, South Africa lobbied for the re-admission of Zimbabwe, suspended in March last year. South Africa also canvassed support for a Sri Lankan candidate to oust the secretary general, Don McKinnon, who opposed Zimbabwe's re-admission.

South Africa's President, Thabo Mbeki, lost both battles and complained that the decisions had been undemocratic. President Robert Mugabe pulled Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth hours after the leaders, meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, decided to extend the suspension.

"I am at a loss to understand the reasoning for a lifting of the suspension of Zimbabwe," said Mr Tutu. "Presumably that particular sanction was imposed in order to persuade President Mugabe to change his policies, to respect the rule of law, to curb violence against those who were not members of his own Zanu-PF party.

"What most observers seem to say is that at best the unsatisfactory status quo which led to the suspension remains unchanged. Many more contend that things have got worse. I would also wish to have clarification on how the decisions arrived at might be labelled undemocratic."

He went on: "There are no peculiarly African human rights. What has been reported as happening in Zimbabwe is totally unacceptable and reprehensible and we ought to say so, regretting that it should have been necessary to condemn erstwhile comrades."