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Yesterday afternoon I received an email from the South African Presidency. No big deal in that. I’m one of many on the mailing list. What wrenched the gut was its content. President Jacob Zuma, the official missive stated, offers his “profound congratulations” to Zimbabwean counterpart HE Robert Mugabe and “urges” Zimbabweans to “accept the outcome.” So the guy who holds the most powerful position in my country, the place I love and where I want my future grandchildren to live, is “profoundly” endorsing the results of an election that pretty much everyone else in the civilized world says was rigged. My stomach still hasn’t settled.
Much of last night I found myself wondering why Jacob Zuma, the man whose ability to listen turned my scepticism into admiration, the man I
defended relentlessly on private and public platforms, could have been so corrupted by power. That instead of absorbing what everyone in the civilised world knows is true, he now chooses to make such a strong declaration so soon after the result, on behalf of all South Africans.
Does Zuma truly believe that voting was free and fair? That the world’s media is merely making mischief? That the Zimbabwean people are so dysfunctional that after turning out in their millions, 61% of them said to hell with poverty, economic collapse, blatant kleptocracy and political violence? That they love Robert Mugabe so deeply, they turn a collective blind eye to the senile 89 year old’s obvious failings? And hand to him the keys to what’s left of his kingdom for another five years?
Jacob Zuma is not everyone’s cup of tea. But few doubt his political nouse. He knows better than most what’s happening inside our northern neighbor. And has first hand access to the millions being pilfered by Mugabe and his cronies to splurge on South African assets. Estate agents joke that their best super luxury clients come from immediately north of the Limpopo. Their only niggle is that it can be difficult to move suitcases of the US Dollars they use for deposits.
So why did Zuma make his extraordinary statement of support? I fervently hope it is a simple case of Mbeki-itis. Being fed rubbish through the tight good news filter applied by those closest to him. We all wanted the Zimbabwe Election to be free and fair. But wanting it cannot make it so.
If I were in the Presidency, before letting him make any statements I’d have pointed my boss the lengthy investigative article published in yesterday’s London Sunday Times. Headlined Diamonds ensure Mugabe is forever its opening paragraph claims the Zimbabwean President “used £500m of diamond money to rig the country’s elections, intelligence documents obtained by the Sunday Times reveal.”
This apparent R7.5bn war chest was raised, the newspaper claims, primarily from Chinese-owned Zimbabwean diamond companies. This “was used by Mugabe to manipulate the results of the election and intimidate the population.” It adds that the DRC’s Joseph Kabila kicked in $85m and another nation near the bottom of the global governance table, Equatorial Guinea, injected $92 into the slush fund.
The Old Thunderer, which prides itself on more than 200 years of delivering accurate information to millions of readers, says the money was used by Mugabe’s political party “to pay an Israeli firm, which the documents name, to rig the electoral roll.”
If that were not enough to give Zuma pause, maybe his attention would be grabbed by the disclosure in one of the documents that “conversations between David Cameron and Jacob Zuma were monitored by Central Intelligence Organisation (Zimbabwe’s national intelligence service).”
The story goes on and on. Delivering gory details about how the election roll was so massively manipulated (like the bit about 116 000 “voters” over the age of 100, including a 135 year old army officer). Not surprisingly, the opposition MDC doesn’t know where to begin challenging what it has described as “monumental fraud.” Like Finance Minister and MDC secretary general Tendai Biti who told a local newspaper “We have been walking around like zombies…..hoping that this is a nightmare where someone will wake us up in a sweat.”
Zuma’s calm is not only contrasted by Biti’s state of shock. The US Secretary of State John Kerry, an Afrophile who recently visited the continent, was forthright in his official announcement: “Make no mistake: in the light of substantial electoral irregularity reported by domestic and regional observers,
….the US does not believe that the results represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people. Today’s announcement was the culmination of a deeply flawed process. We urge SADC and the AU to address their concerns with the electoral process as well as those raised by domestic monitoring groups.”
Judging by Zuma’s response, Kerry shouldn’t hold his breath for SADC.
Reality is perhaps better summed up by The London Sunday Times’s attribution to academic Paul Collier, director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University who concludes: “Mugabe’s now got a licence to loot.”
Yet my President sends our nation’s “profound congratulations”. Is Magabe’s madness spreading south?
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