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Mbeki: A brave, principled man
Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2008

By Obi Egbuna
July 31, 2008

WHEN the history of Zimbabwe is told, one point that everyone across the board from President Mugabe's closest comrades and friends to his most antagonistic detractors will have to admit is that the Zimbabwean leader is a grandmaster when it comes to articulating the nation's vision.

If the adage "experience is the best teacher" is true then it is no secret why articulating the country's politics comes as naturally to President Mugabe as walking or eating.

Many people throughout the world got their first real glimpse of President Mugabe during the 1979 Lancaster House talks, where both British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and US president Jimmy Carter openly admitted they were awe-struck by President Mugabe's brilliance and vision.

The world has really had a chance to see President Mugabe display his courage on the world stage numerous times since then; his stern and uncompromising message to former British prime minister Tony Blair is still used as a cellphone ring tone by many Zimbabweans almost six years on.

His presentation at the African Union Summit in Egypt last month and his brilliant paper at the EU-Africa Summit at the end of last year are among the more recent of his eloquent vision.

It is at these platforms, more than anywhere else, that the world has come to see that US and British imperialism have been hypocritical and reactionary in their handling of Zimbabwe.

While they tell anyone who still listens that all they want is for democracy to take its course in Zimbabwe, it is clear that they are ever ready to use undemocratic means to subvert Zimbabwe's internal political and economic processes.

Why does the US Ambassador to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation keep trying to stop the President from speaking at these gatherings?

Why did Prime Minister Gordon Brown stay away from the EU-Africa Summit in Portugal?

The reality is that President Mugabe and Zanu-PF have so much leverage at this point in the struggle to defend Zimbabwe's sovereignty on the international arena through the support of the country's brothers and sisters in the Sadc region.

And the shining example of this support is none other than South Africa's leader President Thabo Mbeki.

It was no accident that President Mugabe went out of his way during his remarks at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding to not only thank President Mbeki for his tireless efforts but to also highlight his contributions to positive political developments in Zimbabwe.

President Mugabe pointed to Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment) Act Number 18, the various amendments to the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

While the common perception throughout the African world is that the reason why President Mbeki was collectively chosen by Sadc to facilitate the talks between Zanu-PF and both formations of the MDC was because during the time he headed both Nepad and the African Union, he dealt with conflicts in Burundi, Rwanda and Cote d'Ivoire.

In a nutshell, he has experienced far greater internal stand-offs than what obtained in Zimbabwe.

When assessing President Mbeki's suitability for the task assigned to him, we must also look at his family background.

It should not be overlooked that President Mbeki is the biological son of the freedom fighter and national hero Cde Govan Mbeki and his brother Jama was an ardent supporter of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania.

His involvement in national politics started at the tender age of 14 and at that time Cde Thabo Mbeki was already exposed to the myriad opinions that exist within the national body politic.

The other crucial point in understanding President Mbeki for people across the globe is that he personally knows what serious internal conflict is, its manifestations and how it can be best dealt with.

He has steadfastly said the military route is not an option at all and this is attributable to the fact that he lived through such a history and has read a similar history from other countries.

One only has to look at what happened to Maurice Bishop in Grenada and Salvador Allende in Chile who were murdered in cold blood because of their refusal to listen to American dictates.

Our collective historical memory also tells us that comrades Patrice Lumumba and Amilcar Cabral were overthrown because of their defence of their countries' respective sovereignty.

We should thus never overlook the historical context when assessing President Mbeki and his facilitation of dialogue in Zimbabwe.

The US and British governments have openly expressed their anger over how the South African leader has engaged Zimbabwe, but as President Mugabe has eloquently stated, President Mbeki must be commended for his persistence and positive sensitivity to criticism.

One of the best examples of President Mbeki remaining unfazed in the face of criticism was when the leader of MDC-T Morgan Tsvangirai earlier this year said, "It is time to recognise Mbeki's efforts have proved fruitless", or something to that effect.

Tsvangirai has admitted that he was reluctant to go ahead with the talks under President Mbeki's facilitation and it says a lot that the South African leader has managed to overcome those fears.

These remarks came after George W. Bush was quoted by the BBC as saying he was "extremely frustrated" with the Zimbabwe but even more disappointed with President Mbeki's handling of the situation.

As early as 2002, Bush had declared President Mbeki as his "point man" on Zimbabwe, and with hindsight perhaps this was done to create doubt in the minds of Zimbabwe's governing leadership about the South African leader's trustworthiness.

After all, there are very few people in the world who would trust a mediator endorsed by Washington!

When participating in the 2003 UN General Assembly, President Mugabe told a private gathering of solidarity groups that because many of his contemporaries in the Sadc region were no longer in office (Nujoma in Namibia, Chissano in Mozambique, Kaunda in Zambia), the West would try to manipulate the new guard into isolating Zimbabwe.

The President went on to say Zimbabwe was Southern Africa's biggest challenge this century, but the West would be extremely disappointed with the results of their isolationist campaign.

We subsequently saw the European Union threaten to pull out of a road project in Malawi because President Bingu wa Mutharika said he was going to name it after the Zimbabwean leader.

Former Botswana president Festus Mogae and Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa then came to the Harare Agricultural Show and reaffirmed their support for Zimbabwe and President Mugabe soon afterwards.

The most telling development of 2006 was former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan saying that in Zimbabwe what we were witnessing was an unresolved dispute between a sovereign nation and its former racist colonial master.

Mr Annan then agreed to the recommendation that former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa mediate between Blair and President Mugabe.

It is against such a background that President Mbeki has held firm from the time of Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth to the recent failed UN Security Council sanctions bid.

President Mbeki has ignored the anti-Zimbabwe propaganda not only on BBC, C-SPAN, CNN and, of course, the Voice of America, but also reactionary outlets in his own backyard.

The strategy of the Washington Post is to encourage its man in Johannesburg Craig Timberg to launch an all-out attack on President Mugabe and Zanu-PF from the other side of the Limpopo River regardless of truth or accuracy.

Earlier this month Timberg published a front page article claiming to have caught the Zanu-PF leadership on tape planning a campaign of intimidation and violence and that some of President Mugabe's aides spoke to him on condition of anonymity.

The South African branch of Amnesty International, which has unfortunately decided to be a mouthpiece of British intelligence, has done nothing but demonise President Mugabe and Zanu-PF since the land reclamation program began in 2000.

President Mbeki's resilience in dealing with this can be traced back to his days as the ANC's head of information.

This is why the decision to keep the talks between Zanu-PF and the opposition private was a visionary idea.

London and Washington are now more desperate than ever and that is why they coerced an unwilling Nelson Mandela into attacking Zimbabwe.

But the most outlandish displays of ventriloquism have come from Liberia, Raila Odinga in Kenya, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

When Blaise Compare sees President Mugabe he thinks of Thomas Sankara.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf should remember that Amai Joice Mujuru's rise to Zimbabwe's presidium set the tone for continent-wide campaign for women such as herself to get into leadership positions. Among the most surprising attackers of Zimbabwe and President Mbeki is American civil rights leader Rev Jesse Jackson.

If he wants to help Zimbabwe, he should start by giving his Congressman son who voted for sanctions against Zimbabwe the correct and true lecture on history and why he was never able to occupy the White House himself.

When Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah said, "We prefer self-government with danger to servitude in tranquillity," he probably had no idea that a young man whom he greatly influenced would go on to be President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and carry this torch for Africa.

And President Mugabe can continue to show Africa and Africans the path to true independence and empowerment because of brave and principled men like President Mbeki.

Long live President Mbeki, long live President Mugabe!

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