17/04/2008 13:03 - (SA)
African politicians have to dance to two different tunes, representing their countries on a global stage, while still remaining sensitive to local politics.
Thabo Mbeki has proven himself to be a global thinker, and has often come under criticism for this from his own people. But the one issue upon which he has remained intractable has been Zimbabwe.
The concept of "quiet diplomacy", a euphemism for "looking the other way while atrocities are committed" if ever I heard one, is a bizarre one. But a step beyond quiet diplomacy, publicly stating that the world should wait for the Zimbabwean election results, is even stranger.
Standing by a lunatic dictator as he flaunts his own agenda in the face of derailed democratic processes is a very questionable stance for a head of state, notions of brotherhood in the struggle notwithstanding. Has Mbeki forgotten that it was democracy that installed him for two terms in South Africa in the first place? How can he stand by a man who seeks to stymie this process?
Not that I agree with much of what they have done in recent years, but the Americans invade countries for flouting democracy. Zimbabwe should count its (possibly last remaining) blessings that it doesn't have any oil, or it would have to contend with being bombed as well as starving and without essential services.
The global community
Realistically, Zimbabwe needn't fear invasion by democracy champions, but it does continue to be excluded from a global community, and in a rapidly shrinking world, inclusion is essential for survival.
Naysayers insist that it is only because of Western boycotts that Zimbabwe is in such a precarious economic and political position, but this is ignoring the fact that these same powers boycotted the Apartheid government in South Africa, with the result of bringing African leadership into power.
To participate in a global community, a country has to embrace democracy and steer clear of human rights abuses. Democracy isn't just a mechanism to install a leader, after which he can do whatever he wants, it's an ongoing process, involving free and fair elections, freedom of the press, freedom of expression and association and almost no accidents in prison cells with uneven floor tiling.
For Thabo Mbeki to stand by a man who is doing the same things in his country that were done to black South Africans only two short decades ago is a sickening double standard, and a very negative indictment on African politics indeed.
Georgina Guedes is a freelance journalist. She has nothing funny to say today