South Africa’s decision to oppose a request for a United Nations Security Council briefing on the economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe is another example of South Africa bending over backwards to defend Robert Mugabe’s increasingly tyrannical rule.
Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Emyr Jones Parry last week requested a “humanitarian briefing” for the UNSC following the attack on Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, as well as the deepening economic and political crisis in the country. South Africa is the current rotating President of the UNSC – Dumisani Khumalo, South Africa’s ambassador to the UN, opposed the request.
In a repeat of South Africa’s indefensible blocking of a UN resolution on the human rights crisis in Burma, Khumalo argued that the turmoil in Zimbabwe does not affect international peace and security and therefore does not belong on the UNSC’s agenda.
Apart from the extraordinary irony that this reasoning was often the excuse used to block UNSC debates on Apartheid South Africa, it is also a fundamental misreading of the extent of the crisis in Zimbabwe. As the situation continues to get worse on a daily basis, there is a distinct possibility that the southern African region will be negatively affected by the fallout from Zimbabwe’s implosion. This fallout could in all likelihood constitute a threat to international peace and security.
South Africa, as the leading nation in the region, has a moral responsibility to tell Harare that its brutal intolerance of legitimate opposition will no longer be accepted. By shielding President Mugabe from international scrutiny, Pretoria has become complicit in suppression of democratic freedoms in Zimbabwe.
South Africa is rapidly developing a reputation as a defender of the world’s pariahs; our tenure at the head of the UNSC is characterised by an indifference to human rights and temporising with tyranny. We have now all but lost much of the moral high ground we once had under President Mandela. As South Africa prepares to commemorate Human Rights Day on Wednesday, we must urgently reassess our position and make sure that Zimbabwe is placed on the UNSC’s agenda.
Our window of opportunity is fast closing, as Britain will next month assume the UNSC chairpersonship. If they put Zimbabwe on the agenda when we opposed such a move, our moral high ground will be lost completely.
Tony Leon MP
Leader of the Democratic Alliance
19 March 2007