Mbeki under pressure on Zim



FORMER South African Reserve Bank deputy governor Gill Marcus has called on government to be more outspoken on human rights violations in Zimbabwe.



rial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Her comments echo those of a variety of prominent leaders who have demanded stronger condemnation of the actions of President Robert Mugabe’s government.


With Zimbabwe’s parliamentary elections scheduled for March, there is pressure on South Africa to play a greater role in ensuring that the poll is free and fair, in contrast to the March 2002 presidential election which was panned by some observers as “daylight robbery”.


Marcus, who is now working in the private sector, was asked at a breakfast function this week for her views on Zimbabwe.


“The South African government was pursuing a policy that it determined, but a stronger comment on human rights abuses was necessary,” she said after the event.


However, Marcus stressed that her comment did not amount to an angry attack on government’s position on Zimbabwe.


“The expectation of members of the South African public that President (Thabo) Mbeki could tell the head of state of another country what to do was both ahistorical and presumptive,” she said.


It is unclear whether the opposition Movement for Democratic Change will contest the elections against the ruling Zanu PF.


Human Rights Watch said this month that “in Zimbabwe, parliamentary elections scheduled for March are likely to unfold in a climate of repression and intimidation”. It said pressure should be placed on leaders of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to push Mugabe to ensure free and fair elections.


The organisation said “the human rights situation in Zimbabwe continues to be of grave concern (and) the government continues to use (its) laws to suppress criticism of government and public debate”.


There have been indications recently that the African National Congress (ANC) is turning up the volume of its “quiet diplomacy”.


Last week, for the first time, ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe expressed criticism of the Zimbabwean political climate. He said the ANC “have been concerned about several things” and had put pressure on Zanu PF to strictly adhere to the Sadc election protocol.


He said the MDC should not have to ask for police permission to hold meetings.


Former Truth and Reconciliation Commission chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu made headlines last year when he noted Zimbabwe’s human rights abuses and asked whether government’s “quiet diplomacy” approach to Zimbabwe was working.


Other prominent leaders, including Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, have raised their concerns over reported human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.


Although the tripartite alliance of the ANC, Cosatu and South African Communist Party says that it has reached broad agreement on issues including Zimbabwe, this could be tested.


Cosatu has asked permission from Zimbabwean Labour Minister Paul Mangwana to enter the country on a fact-finding mission early next month to meet labour unions.


If permission is refused, or if the Cosatu team is booted out, as happened during an aborted mission last year, this could again throw the issue into the public arena. —Businessday.