South Africa has forfeited the right to stage the 2010 football World Cup. By supporting and sustaining the holocaust unfolding in Zimbabwe, the Government has aligned itself with the ranks of evil. It is one thing to refuse to intervene when cruelty is rife in a neighbouring country, quite another to fuel it with sympathetic words, pathetic policies and required resources. President Mbeki has repeatedly defended his friend in Zimbabwe at international meetings and before his electorate.
Doubtless he is protecting his left flank, but his refusal to condemn Mugabe's murderous regime and willingness to supply it with free electricity, fuel and food for political purposes paints him as either a knave or a fool. At best he has fallen under the spell of a cunning man prepared to kill every enemy and to destroy the country in his charge in order to sustain his invidious regime.
It is inconceivable that a prestigious football event can be held in a country that holds hands with wickedness: a country trying to turn back the human tide of misery that pours in every day from Zimbabwe, risking the crocodiles in the Limpopo and the guards at Beit bridge, in a desperate attempt not so much to find a better life but to survive another week.
Nor are these refugees merely the flotsam and jetsam of a floundering nation. Many of them are teachers, bankers and other professionals reduced to despair by an engineered economic collapse. Meanwhile the African National Congress (ANC) claims it cannot interfere in the affairs of another state, an opinion that thankfully does not extend to Darfur or the Democratic Republic of Congo. Everyone pretends that recent elections in Zimbabwe were legitimate. Of course it is a lie.
Nor is there any sign of improvement. Last week Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) said that it supported the government and people of Zimbabwe. Astonishingly the “leaders” concerned managed to keep a straight face while uttering these oxymoronic words. The Zimbabwean Government and people have been at war for six years. Mbeki was appointed as mediator between the SADC and Zanu PF. It is an astonishing choice. Mugabe has been running rings around him for years.
Accordingly Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has no choice but to find a new location for the tournament.
Some argue that sport and politics must be kept apart, holding them partly responsible for the current collapse in sporting ethics. However the ANC cannot complain. Indeed, they argued strongly in favour of sport and politics being brought together while trying to bring apartheid to its knees.
Presented with the current barbarism in Zimbabwe they will surely understand the outrage and the conviction that sporting links must be broken, not just with Zimbabwe but also with its closest ally. After all, the point of boycotts is to make an impact. Mugabe stopped caring about anything except himself a long time ago. South Africa cares about its position in the world, and its role in Africa.
President Mbeki and his cohorts must accept some of the blame for a viciousness designed to keep a sick and spiteful old man in power. Mbeki has bought into the anti-colonial furphy. Doubtless he is contemplating some distant vision of an African renaissance while millions are dying or fleeing and a fine country is turning into a cesspit. Mbeki's influence is clear. He has persuaded Mugabe to hold the next presidential election in 2008 and not 2010 in order to avoid clashing with the World Cup.
Mbeki's discrete diplomacy has been a dismal failure and his reputation has not survived his association with the old warhorse to the north. The common man came to him and was met with aristocratic disdain. He says that he feels Zimbabwe's pain. It is not Zimbabwe that is in pain, but the men and women who have been betrayed by its ruler.
Brutality is rife in Zimbabwe. Mugabe will kill and scare as many opponents as he can before the 2008 elections and will then argue that the vote was not rigged. Recently 15 men and one woman bashed Sekai Holland, a brave woman protesting about her government. Her beating, carried out by drug-crazed youths supported by the dreaded and ubiquitous CIO, was merely the latest example of the nastiness of the regime Just in case the rage expressed in this column seems too raw let me quote from the latest medical report on this indomitable woman:
Sekai has had further operations to put pins and a plate in her broken arm, they have reset her broken leg (that had pins and plate inserted in Harare), and has had skin grafting on one leg to repair flesh destroyed by a whip used by her torturers. She is in excellent spirits in spite of her injuries, knowing what an impact this appalling brutality has had on the outside world, and that she faced down the 15 men and one woman who brutalised her without once begging for mercy.
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