Despite months of work in bringing to the world’s attention the anti-democratic violence of Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s two acts of self-defense were the ones to spark action, or at least talk of it, from Zimbabwe’s neighbours and the global community.

His decision to abandon this week’s scheduled presidential run-off election and, yesterday, his bid for protection from arrest in the Dutch embassy in Harare, seem to have raised alarm among potential allies to levels that may finally translate to assistance.

As the New York Times reports today:

There are growing cracks in the solidarity that African heads of state have shown for Mr. Mugabe, an 84-year-old liberation hero whose defiant anti-Western rhetoric has long struck a resonant chord in a region with a bitter colonial history.

The United States and Britain were pressing to put Zimbabwe’s political crisis on the United Nations Security Council agenda on Monday, a step South Africa, the region’s most powerful nation, has consistently opposed.

And on Monday, in a mood of burgeoning crisis, a howl of dismay and outrage spread among Western nations and parts of Africa as a growing number of African leaders registered concern at the developments in Zimbabwe.

In a statement, Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, said that anybody who is declared a winner after the elections would have no credibility and have no legitimacy to govern.

The Guardian argues that “there is unlikely to be a diplomatic ‘silver bullet’ to convince the 84-year-old president and his entourage to go,” but there are other options available: mediation, financial sanctions, diplomatic isolation, peacekeepers, and military intervention.

What action if any is realistic, indeed possible, becomes the next question to be answered by those who commit to helping Zimbabwe.

Good intentions but vague on the detail of how to get Mugabe out. Yesterday, for the first time, Britain said that Robert Mugabe had no right to call himself the President of Zimbabwe and that the world should try to get him out … The weakness in this call for sanctions – which is not at this point, ministers made clear, a call to arms – is Zimbabwe’s nervous but immobile neighbours. The task is to persuade them, as they sit watching the rising tally of deaths, the hunger, the inflation of more than a million per cent, that even if humanity won’t prompt them to act, self-interest now should. – Times Online

Voters left with little choice as the terror goes on. Smart Zimbabweans are taking no chances: they are keeping up with the election slogans of Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF that are handy to know at difficult moments. The latest – “Mugabe in office by force on 27 June” – is useful for those hauled off buses by the ruling party’s militia and forced to profess their loyalty to a president who recently said only God can remove him from office. Anyone unable to recite the slogans or sing liberation war songs with sufficient enthusiasm is likely to be pummelled to the ground by the young men and women in Zanu-PF bandanas and fresh white Mugabe T-shirts. – Guardian

Paths out of Zimbabwe’s dead end. Britain, the US and the European Union need to cut off the access to hard currency and international banks that allows Mr Mugabe and his cronies to float above Zimbabwean hyper-inflation. Some of the big names in western business also need to re-examine their ties with Zimbabwe. Barclays Bank, which was forced to quit apartheid South Africa, still operates happily in Zimbabwe. But the biggest source of new pressure on the Mugabe regime has to come from its southern African neighbours. Mr Mugabe has sought to portray the democratic opposition in Zimbabwe as the tools of white colonialists and racists. By still treating Mr Mugabe as a man who should be respected for his role in the liberation struggle, African governments are in danger of giving credence to that argument. — Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

Political vulgarity. Mugabe has now become an antithesis of the man who took over the reigns of power in Zimbabwe in 1980. Inexplicably bitter with the world and clinging on to the last of his remaining strengths, a dated rhetoric that can only be best described as political vulgarity; he continues to re-invent a political discourse that refuses to acknowledge the present. He now selectively invokes history and his independence struggle credentials in a desperate bid to legitimize a failed administration. It is a typical technique of political survival used by many African leaders to prop up their governments. – Business Daily Africa

Negotiation Only Solution to the Crisis. … [T]he daunting challenge for Zimbabwe at the moment is not just about how to retire President Mugabe from politics but also how to get the military to respect the country’s constitutional provisions and political outcomes emanating from these constitutional provisions. Put differently, the fundamental challenge is how to get the military to underwrite electoral outcomes or whatever political settlement is made by politicians, including a post-retirement package for Mugabe. As in the case of the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, the security sector can help usher in a new government in Zimbabwe, and ensure its stability. –

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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