KAMPALA, Uganda (eTN) – The result of South African President Thabo Mbeki’s ostrich policy towards the events in Zimbabwe, where he continues to play a most dubious role in supporting a combined anti-constitutional and military power retention scheme by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his goons, has now spread to the streets of South Africa.
In a whirlwind of most likely politically inspired gang violence, much resembling the militias in Zimbabwe itself, refugees from that country now find themselves targeted, hunted down, beaten up and even killed in growing numbers. The perpetrators show all signs of being organized and taking hints from above‚ to achieve a political agenda through violent means. Such behavior was previously only known from repressive dictatorial regimes in Africa and the resurgence of such tactics in South Africa is ringing the alarm bells on the continent and around the globe.
Several Ugandans living in South Africa and visiting there are now also reported to have been caught up in these events, losing property, having their businesses attacked, being beaten up and at least one case was reported about a Ugandan ending up in hospital in a coma. Media reports in Uganda expressed concern for their fellow Ugandans in South Africa, in particular, those in Johannesburg, while diplomatic sources played down the situation in almost typical fashion.
These events are tragic, as much of Africa and the rest of the civilized world for long looked upon South Africa as an emerging African democratic success story and for providing continental leadership, all of which is now being despoiled. However, most disconcerting is the fact of such brutal attacks being inflicted on fellow Africans, whose own countries during the South African apartheid years gave refuge and shelter to South Africans engaged in the liberation struggle and to those who opted for exile to escape an oppressive regime. And while Thabo Mbeki was talking of setting up a commission of inquiry, his most likely successor, Jacob Zuma, has again spoken out candidly and condemned the violence in the strongest possible terms.
In contrast to Mbeki, Zambian President Mwanawasa has emerged as a champion of the suppressed people of Zimbabwe. It is hoped that more African leaders follow his lead and not only talk reality to the Zimbabwean regime leadership, but follow this up with concrete action to help a population largely impoverished, starved and literally held hostage by their so called leaders.
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (International Federation of Association Football) or FIFA, too, as will other global sports bodies, intent of handing major championships to South Africa, is showing signs of concern bordering a minor panic, ahead of the 2010 Football World Cup. Constant power interruptions, expected to get worse in the near term, combined with an already serious crime rate which in the past often also involved tourists, has cast doubts over the South African governments ability to be ready for the biggest sports event next to the Olympics, supposed to start in two years time from now. In this regard South Africa is letting down all of Africa for bringing the spotlight back on the continent once more for the wrong reasons.