Friday, September 12, 2008
Mbeki's quiet diplomacy bears fruit in Zimbabwe
Cast your mind back a few months to the first round of the Presidential elections in Zimbabwe. There were calls, from the usual suspects, for western military 'intervention' to topple Robert Mugabe. At the same time, South African President Thabo Mbeki was denounced as an 'appeaser' for attempting to use whatever leverage he had to broker a peaceful, negotiated solution to the crisis. Well, South Africa's much-derided president has managed to mediate a ground-breaking power-sharing deal between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition MDC.
I was an admirer of the thoughtful, pipe-smoking South African President long before he very generously quoted from an article I had written for The Guardian, in one of his regular 'Letters From the President'. Thabo Mbeki is not a man to rant and rave, but someone who gets things done in his own quiet, understated way. Had those who were calling for military intervention in Zimbabwe got their way, thousands of people would have been killed and the country would have been engulfed in a bloody civil war. As it is, thanks to the efforts of the South African President, there is now a real chance that Zimbabwe can move forward into a new and brighter era.