An email came in this afternoon from a colleague in Zimbabwe, the clinic with which he is associated is in desperate need of medicines.
In a generation, Robert Mugabe had reduced his country from one of the most prosperous in Africa to the point where the exchange rate quoted today on the independent news source www.swradioafrica.com is 350 billion Zimbabwean dollars to £1 Sterling.
There is nothing to be said about Mugabe that has not been said countless times, what is surprising is our capacity to still be surprised by anything associated with him.
There were Western commentators who seemed taken aback at the warm reception he received at the African Union. Why would they not greet him warmly? Many are as corrupt and as violent as he is. There would be fear amongst some that if he were to be toppled, their day might also come.
There were expressions of disappointment that China and Russia vetoed the resolution proposing sanctions at the United Nations security council. What was expected? Both are dictatorships. China remains brutally oppressive and anyone who believes Russia’s pretence of democracy should read Garry Kasparov’s article in last Friday’s Financial Times. Kasparov writes,
It is a pity for Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe does not enjoy a surplus of oil and natural gas. Without those assets his election victory is denounced as a sham and nations around the world call for him to be ousted. At this week’s G8 summit, George W. Bush, US president, denounced Mr Mugabe while sitting next to Mr Medvedev, whose hold on power is similarly counterfeit. The Russian security services’ methods are more subtle than machetes but our democracy is no more real than Zimbabwe’s.
Perhaps Prime Minister Putin recognizes a fellow spirit in Harare. And, anyway, since when did the United States and Britain need a UN Security Council resolution as a ground for action? Iraq was invaded without any scruples about resolutions.
Apart from hand-wringing, which is useless to the mother in Zimbabwe who has no money to feed her children, there seems a powerlessness to do anything.
But there is a chance to change things.
President Mbeki of South Africa has sat on his hands, when he is the one man who could probably secure a regime change, so it is time to apply pressure on him. Tell the sponsors of the 2010 World Cup that you would prefer they did not support a nation that supports Zimbabwe and that you will take your custom elsewhere if they ignore you.
The line up of 2010 sponsors on the FIFA website has a familiar feel about it.
FIFA World Cup Sponsors
Threatening noises from such quarters would frighten South Africa into action.
Or maybe we prefer hand-wringing?