William Gumede: Silent African leaders are accomplices in these crimes

Although it is too late for those who have already lost their lives, regional African leaders must now surely step in to prevent even more people being openly maimed, forced out of their homes, and starved by Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party as part of the scorched earth policy to win the dubious upcoming presidential election by crooked means.

Although the opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai has been robbed of a clear victory in the first round of the presidential poll, and unfairly forced into a run-off vote, regional African leaders, the West and the United Nations should ensure that bloodshed stops, and the country's brutalised citizens can venture out in relative safety to cast their vote.

Instead of agreeing to "butt out", as South African President Thabo Mbeki told George W Bush in a letter that came to light last week, the international community must now intervene with greater resolve. Setting aside the odd statement, the West and the United Nations have been staggeringly timid. China and Zimbabwe's other friends outside Africa must also put pressure on Mugabe to stop this madness. There is not a moment to spare. The UN must flood Zimbabwe with peacekeepers and election observers and insist Mugabe allows all outside media.

Mugabe's brutal precision attacks on those who voted for opposition parties in March has advanced to staggering levels. It is clear that in his illegal recounting of the results of the parliamentary poll and first-round presidential ballot, Mugabe has obtained the districts that voted for the opposition, and is systematically targeting these communities to batter them into not voting again.

President Mbeki, having faced the devastating consequences of propping up Mugabe – and by that I mean the violent attacks against Zimbabweans who had fled their country and taken refuge in South African townships – must own up to reality and condemn Mugabe.

The regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the continental African Union must do the same. Their deafening silence has made them complicit in the atrocities. Only the most delusional can now say Mugabe is waging a struggle against Western imperialists. He is waging a war against his own people.

Mr Gumede is author of Thabo Mbeki And The Battle For The Soul Of The ANC