In some ways I can sympathise with Thabo Mbeki’s reluctance to throw South Africa’s weight behind a campaign to shove Robert Mugabe out of power in Zimbabwe. The South Africans sometimes complain that the world should understand that Zimbabwe is not a colony of South Africa – which is true enough. Its also true – unfortunately – that there is considerable sympathy for Mugabe among black South Africans. Any South African politician has to take that into account.
But the South Africans should realise that they have a lot at stake in Zimbabwe – and I’m not just talking about the threat of refugee flows and chaos on their borders. Gordon Brown was probably too polite to put it this way when he met President Mbeki, but many people wonder whether – when they look at Zimbabwe – they are looking at a vision of South Africa in 30 years time. Zimbabwe looks like a vindication of every white racist prediction made at the time of independence, that African self-government would end in disaster. It is urgently in South Africa’s interests to help turn the country round. Read more