Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cracks in SADC support for Mugabe?

Cracks seem to be developing in the Southern African Development Community over the election crisis in Zimbabwe.

Leaders of the 14 countries that make up SADC have all along been united in preserving their liberation struggle camaraderie that bordered on ignoring the economic plunder and human rights abuses being perpetrated by President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party in Zimbabwe.

However, Botswana – the region’s undisputed leader in democracy - has broken ranks with the rest of the regional members, opting to confront the Mugabe regime.

Prior to the Lusaka emergency SADC summit in mid April, Botswana offered opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai a safe haven when he faced imminent arrest on “treasonous” charges of declaring himself the winner of the presidential election before the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced the results.

Last week the Botswana government went on to ban Zimbabweans from buying fuel within its borders, a move that is reported to be grounding transportation in Zimbabwe as even government institutions and Zanu PF functionaries sourced fuel from Botswana among other sources.

The Botswana government went on to instruct its public media to report on the violence being perpetrated by security agents, the army, police, war veterans and Zanu militia in Zimbabwe.

"I have told the public media this must be given the priority it deserves. We cannot be getting stories on a local problem on the wire service when we are here on the ground,"
Botswana’s deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Communications, Science and Technology, Andrew Sesinyi is quoted by the Zimbabwe Standard as having told the Mmegi newspaper.

According to the Standard, Sesinyi’s directive came shortly after an unprecedented mass deportation of Zimbabwean traders from Zambia last weekend. Observers saw this as yet another sign of growing regional impatience over the unending political crisis in this country, Zimbabwe’s independent Sunday newspaper said.

In fact, it appears more countries, even those whose leaders appear to be solidly behind Mugabe – like Thabo Mbeki of South Africa – have taken action against his intentions.

The refusal by union workers to offload a Chinese ship carrying arms destined for Zimbabwe is reliably understood to have been initiated and encouraged by politicians within Mbeki’s ruling ANC party who do not subscribe to his quiet diplomacy.

Their action was emulated in Mozambique.


Albie Sachs, SA's top justice an ordinary man

TORONTO, ON, Canada (The Southern - As a student of the history of the struggle for majority rule and democracy in southern Africa, one name I came across regularly in texts and lectures was that of Albie Sachs.

Reading and hearing about him, I pictured a fiery giant, both in stature and demeanor. A domineering figure who birthed modern South Africa’s constitution and is its custodian in the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Like Nelson Mandela and other important men and women of the struggle, I looked forward to the day I would meet him.

That day was Wednesday, May 7, 2008, 24 floors up a trendy legal office building in downtown Toronto. The occasion was a special reception organized by the Canada-South Africa Chamber of Business and the University of Cape Town Foundation, to flaunt him to Toronto-based members and well-wishers.

In sauntered a very ordinary man in a blue “Mandela shirt”. I only realised it was him when I saw how everybody farced over him.

But like all great people, Albie Sachs is just an ordinary man. No, there wasn’t any of the learned pompousness associated with legal minds. Absent, was the self-importance of a judge as he posed for pictures with everyone (including me) who wanted and, at one point, sat alone in a corner just observing his soon to be audience make rounds between the coffee and snack tables and, of course, the wine bar.

When he stood up to speak about "Every Judgement I Write is a Lie", his latest book, the authority of a Justice came out and so did the defiance of a freedom fighter.

His stumpie arm (cut off in a bomb attack in the 1980s) pointing menacingly at his audience, Justice Sachs spoke about how decisions made by judges are made by people. There are rules to follow but there are also personal considerations that may not be declared openly but may, nevertheless, come out in the judgement.

“Every Judgement I Write is a Lie” – is, of course, tongue in cheek, or is it?