President Mugabe of Zimbabwe with each passing day is transforming himself into a caricature of every crackpot petty dictator known to the cinema or the literary world. At points, he struts on the stage of power like a second rate Benito Mussolini, and other times, he is a poor version of Joseph Stalin. On his return from the AU meeting, he was greeted by thousands who knew it was better to cheer him than to appear disappointed he was still alive. “I am the president of the Republic of Zimbabwe and that is reality he told the crowd.” If the Movement for Democratic Change refuses to accept that reality he warned, there would be no dialogue with its leaders.
Failure on the part of the African Union to take a strong stand and either suspend Mugabe from the organization or to impose sanctions, have made this two-bit petty dictator believe he is immune to any form of opposition. The cowardly AU even refused to appoint an impartial mediator to deal with the Zimbabwe situation even tough opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, denounced President Mbeki of South Africa for his tight friendship with Mugabe.
Two weeks of violence and hatred have ripped apart the image of South Africa as a nation which seeks to assume the leadership of Africa. The fury that was unleashed against foreign workers in the country has never previously been witnessed and in the wake of what happened thousands of innocent people are left without a home, without clothes, without a job and without food. Estimates are that up to a 100,000 have been displaced and dozens killed as mobs rampaged through towns killing, beating and burning. At least 50,000 Zimbabweans and Moczambicans have left the country in fear of their lives. There are about five million immigrants in South Africa of whom at least half are from Zimbabwe where President Mugabe has destroyed the economy and viciously attacked opponents.
Reporters have found hundreds of people camped out near police stations huddling under blankets as winter begins. “We are living like dogs,” said a Sudanese refugee, “please tell somebody to help us.” Most aid to refugees is coming from church groups, relief agencies and individuals. Despite making speeches about how terrible everything was, government leaders are not initiating any large-scale relief efforts. The Red Cross has complained about the lack of national coordination to deal with the impact of the riots.
Perhaps, if President Mbeki would exert pressure on his close friend, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, a fair election in that nation would bring to power a government that would restore the wrecked economy and most probably result in millions of Zimbabweans in South Africa returning home.
Thousands of people marched through the streets of Johannesburg holding placards that said: “Xenophobia hurts like Apartheid” or “we stand against xenophobia.” Police said there is a momentary halt to the violence which enveloped the area and led to the death of at least 50 people while forcing thousands to flee for their lives. President Mbeki, whose silence and inaction played a major role in the violence being allowed to occur, finally commented: “Today we are faced with a disgrace, a humilitation as a nation in that we have allowed a handful of people to commit crimes against other Afrcans living in our country.”
At least 10,000 people are displaced in Cape Town and thousands have left the nation to return to their homes. The best explanation the Mbeki government can offer is to blame the riots on former members of “apartheid security forces,” whatever that means. Mbeki has remained silent about the terror in Zimbabwe so it is not surprising he is silent about violence in his own nation.