Ruling South African Party Shuns ‘Outside’ Diplomacy for Zimbabwe’s Troubles

Opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from
Friday’s runoff vote in the face of massive political violence against his
supporters. Regional powerhouse South
Africa is widely believed to hold a pivotal
role in resolving its neighbor’s troubles.

While South Africa’s ruling African National Congress
released an unusually strong condemnation of the Zimbabwe President Robert
Mugabe’s government Tuesday, saying it was “riding roughshod over the
hard-won democratic rights” of its people, the party also recalled
colonial history, insisting that outsiders deserve no role in ending the
current anguish, the New York Times reported

In what seemed a clear rebuke to the Western-led effort to
take an aggressive stance against Mugabe’s regime, the South Africa’s A.N.C. included a lengthy
criticism of the “arbitrary, capricious power” exerted by Africa’s former colonial masters and the subsequent
struggle by African nations to grant newfound freedoms and rights.

“No colonial power in Africa, least of all Britain in its colony of ‘Rhodesia’ ever demonstrated any respect for
these principles,” the African National Congress said, referring to Zimbabwe before
its independence, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, the international community appears ready to
reject any attempt by Mugabe to stay in power if he goes ahead with a planned
one-man runoff election Friday, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday.

“If the election takes place and Mugabe stands up there
and declares himself president again on the basis of that, I think it’s going
to be uniformly rejected by the international community,” spokesman Tom
Casey said, according to Reuters.

Casey pointed to pressure from Zimbabwe’s
African neighbors and the U.N. Security Council’s unanimous condemnation of
violence against Tsvangirai’s supporters, that won rare backing from South Africa, China
and Russia,
who have previously blocked such moves.

Mugabe, who has held uninterrupted power for 28 years, has
shrugged off the international pressure.

But Casey said “there will be consequences for Zimbabwe as a
whole if it, in effect, has a government that no one views as having any

On Tuesday, Tsvangirai’s party released a copy of his letter
to the country’s electoral commission, explaining his reasons for dropping out
of the runoff.

“The violence, intimidation, death, destruction of
property is just too much for anyone to dream of a free and fair election let
alone expect our people to be able to freely and independently express to free
themselves,” he wrote. “For this reason, my party and I have resolved
that we cannot be part to this flawed process. For the avoidance of any doubt
the presidential election question remains unresolved until such time a free
and fair election is held.”

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said that Tsvangirai
took refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare
after being tipped off that soldiers were on the way to his house. “He is
only safe because, alerted by friends, he left in a hurry a few minutes
earlier,” Wade said.

Tsvangirai told Dutch Radio 1 on Tuesday that his refuge was
temporary and the government had assured the Dutch ambassador that he would not
be hurt. Tsvangirai has not claimed asylum, saying he could leave in the next
few days.

Mugabe denied that Tsvangirai was in danger.
“Tsvangirai is frightened. He has run to seek refuge at the Dutch embassy.
What for? These are voters, they will do you no harm. Political harm, yes,
because they will vote against you. No one wants to kill Tsvangirai.”

Mugabe also referred to comments by Tsvangirai offering
talks on the condition that the violence ends.

“He now says he wants to negotiate,” Mugabe was
quoted as saying, according to the Times. “We say we won’t refuse to
negotiate but for now there is only one thing for us to accomplish.”

The president’s remarks were the most explicit affirmation
that he intends to go through with the election, but his hint of readiness to
talk was also the first indication that Mugabe — whose 28-year rule was
threatened by his second-place showing in the disputed March vote — might
negotiate once he has secured what he could depict as a position of strength.

“The West can scream all it wants. Elections will go
on. Those who want to recognize our legitimacy can do so, those who don’t want,
should not,” Mugabe said.

International concern is mounting over Zimbabwe’s
political turmoil and economic meltdown, blamed by the West and the opposition
on Mugabe.

The world cannot stop Friday’s presidential run-off vote in Zimbabwe but southern Africa must declare
Mugabe’s government illegitimate, U.S. ambassador to Harare James
McGee said Tuesday.

“SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) needs to
make a clear statement that this is an illegitimate regime and it is conducting
an illegitimate election,” he told reporters in a conference call.