Leading article: Africa must condemn Mr Mugabe's brutal coup

Share
Related Topics

Yesterday's general strike in Zimbabwe was always likely to be a relative flop. The people of that nation are demoralised and intimidated. Only once in the past decade has there been much general support for a "stayaway". With inflation running at 100,000 per cent and four out of five people unemployed, few of those who still have a job were willing to risk a day's pay. So the weary and impoverished population formed the usual daily queues at banks to withdraw just enough hyperinflationary cash to buy bread, for which they had to queue again at the supermarkets.

The strike was called by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to press for publication of last month's general election results. The poll gave new meaning to the term "secret ballot" when President Robert Mugabe refused to announce the voters' verdict when it turned out not to suit him. A strike was a feeble strategy but it was all the opposition could muster once the High Court, packed with judges who are Mugabe stooges, ruled that it was perfectly legal for Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission to delay its announcement pending a "recount" in 23 constituencies – no doubt to give Mr Mugabe time to rig the results.

The sad truth is that Mr Mugabe's gangster tactics are working. He has had arrested five election officials who were insufficiently malleable. He has had the thuggish militia he calls the "war veterans" invade 60 of the biggest white-owned commercial farms to stir up atavistic resentments from the colonial era. He did this just two weeks before the wheat-planting season, despite projections that Zimbabwe will run out of maize by mid-July. He has had his courtroom cronies give the stamp of specious legality to the process. Yesterday came the first reports of the murder of MDC supporters in a systematic crackdown which saw foreign journalists detained and the arrest of the lawyer representing the MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Intimidation is spreading through rural areas north of Harare which were once Mugabe strongholds but which voted for the opposition a fortnight ago. Two hundred MDC supporters have been hospitalised after being brutally beaten into chanting pro-government slogans, in what Mugabe loyalists are calling "Operation Mavhoterapapi" ("Operation where you put your X"). Its aim is to "re-educate" MDC supporters to vote the right way next time and scare civil servants who run polling stations to allow vote-rigging in any future ballot. The violence is escalating. The harsh reality is that the momentum is now very clearly with Mr Mugabe.

Zimbabwe's neighbours have failed its people badly. The summit called by President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia at the weekend, under the aegis of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), did not urge Mr Mugabe to step aside, as the MDC had requested, but merely called for the election results to be announced "expeditiously". The crooked Zimbabwean president failed to attend. And when SADC's designated mediator, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, went to Harare instead, it was only to announce that there was "no crisis" and to call for patience.

The world's patience, however, is exhausted with Mr Mugabe. Mr Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy" has failed. So has the SADC's limp initiative. But though Britain and the US will today raise the Zimbabwe crisis at a UN Security Council meeting, the solution rests with Africa. It is now time for the African Union – a body which has prided itself on requiring human rights, democracy and good governance – to become involved and condemn Mr Mugabe's coup. The African Union's credibility is on the line and, the West should make clear, so is the financial and political backing that the industrialised nations currently offer it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are working in some of the lowest-paid sectors such as cleaning, catering and caring  

Women's wages have gone backwards. Labour would give women the pay they deserve

Gloria de Piero
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?