William M Gumede: Even his own party realises the solution must come from out of Africa

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South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki desperately did not want Zimbabwe to be debated by the United Nations, he prefers "African solutions for Africa's problems".

That is obviously an admirable and also the right sentiment. The problem is that, in the case of Zimbabwe, it has not worked. It has failed disastrously. That is what even his own party is now telling him.

Mr Mbeki wanted more time but African National Congress members – in no uncertain terms – have told him time has run out after five years of quiet diplomacy in Zimbabwe. The big irony is Mr Mbeki has never warmed to Mr Mugabe, and Mr Mugabe loathes Mr Mbeki. In the first place, the ANC never allied to Zanu-PF during its liberation struggle. Even at Zimbabwe's first independence elections, the ANC supported Zapu, Zanu-PF's rival.

And now, at the very end, while knowing that Mr Mugabe is the problem, Mr Mbeki still cannot countenance the opposition Movement for Democratic Change getting to power.

He would rather contemplate Simba Makoni, the former Zanu-PF guerrilla and finance minister, who was the third candidate in the presidential election, rather than Morgan Tsvangirai, the former trade union leader, now head of the MDC. Why? Mr Mbeki, like other African liberation leaders of his age, believe that only those who fought in the liberation struggle can be trusted to lead. Mr Tsvangirai was a trade unionist during the Zimbabwean liberation struggle.

They also believe that those who break away from a liberation movement, as Mr Tsvangirai did in 1999, are akin to traitors. Mr Mbeki appears to think that by giving Mr Mugabe a soft landing he will protect the good ideals of the anti-colonial liberation struggle. By still wanting to accommodate Mr Mugabe, after all the misery the tyrant has unleashed against his own people, in the name of struggle solidarity, Mr Mbeki is in fact destroying the grand idea of the liberation struggle.

The wider ANC understands all of that.

All Mr Mbeki needs to say publicly is that he opposes everything that Mr Mugabe stands for. That would be the nudge needed to finally push Mr Mugabe out. Just the fact that Mr Mbeki said the Zimbabwean crisis was "manageable" firmed up Mr Mugabe's position when he was most vulnerable.

By not dealing decisively with Mr Mugabe, Mr Mbeki's much vaunted African solutions for Africa's problems have been dealt a devastating blow. It is now to those outside Africa, to solve this deep African problem.

WM Gumede is author of 'Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC'

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