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Fortuin: “Constructive engagement” with a despot

“Constructive engagement” with a tragic despot called Mugabe (Writes former race relations conciliator Gregory Fortuin – 12 July 2005)

“Never again must we allow the oppression of one group over another” said former President Nelson Mandela at his inauguration speech in May 1994. Was Madiba specifically referring to the oppressive Apartheid Regime and the dehumanization of those born with the wrong skin colour, or was the sage dreaming about a better world. I guess a bit of both.

After the Nazi Holocaust the Germans at Nuremberg said “We never knew” and the world said “Never Again”. Yet we had Cambodia’s Killings fields, Kosovo’s Ethnic Cleansing and Rwanda’s Genocide. Everyday across the globe mothers are screaming agonizing cries from the heart as they weep for their children from Baghdad to London; from the Gaza strip to Jerusalem; from Kabul to Harare.

It is said that we are one day going to give an account not so much for the atrocities of the “evil minority”, but for the deafening silence of the “good majority”. In that light and as a fellow member of the human race, my African roots demand that I am not silent on the carnage sweeping Zimbabwe. Let there be no doubt Robert Mugabe is a tragic despot and an embarrassment to the African continent.

I was an admirer of comrade Robert in the 7’s and 80’s. Here was a man who had suffered dehumanization and incarceration under the old Rhodesian regime. The Lancaster house agreement acknowledged the atrocities of the past and set out a blue print for nation-building including the orderly redistribution of land. Comrade Robert championed this cause through the 80’s, extending the hand of reconciliation to his former jailors and oppressors. That’s when he earned my respect. But how quickly do yesterday’s victims become today’s oppressors…. often because newfound power corrupts.

The legitimate and agreed land-redistribution arrangement went horribly wrong. The British should examine their end of the Lancaster bargain, but it is comrade Robert I have in my sights.

When Verwoerd, Vorster en Botha showed scant regard for the Judiciary and rode rough shot over the Constitution (albeit an Apartheid one). We asked the world to condemn them. Most of the world did, but we also remember with contempt the Reagans and the Thatchers who propped up the regime and called it “constructive engagement”. And so when comrade Robert shows scant regard for the Zimbabwean Constitution and Judiciary he deserves even greater condemnation.

When the Apartheid Leaders set out to ruthlessly eliminate legitimate opposition, the ANC called on the people of the world for assistance. When the evil Apartheid regime showed inhumane regard for people already stripped of their dignity by bulldozing their “homes” consisting of mere corrugated iron and a plastic sheet in squalor conditions, Arch-Bishop Desmond Tutu travelled the planet calling for sanctions. I applauded him. And again I say to comrade Robert, having suffered oppression yourself and now perpetrating the same thing makes you doubly guilty. Black oppression is as bad as white oppression. You cannot fix one evil by perpetrating another evil. You are an embarrassment as an African Leader.

At the same time, let me say that some sections of the world media are as bigoted as Mugabe. They will report that 3 white farmers have been killed, but say nothing about the slaughter of their farm labourers – or does black lives count for less? They perpetuate the divisions between black and white. They should show some consistency when they condemn the despots of the world and not be selective in their condemnation.

Zimbabwe has become a blight on the African continent and the same measures we demanded against the Apartheid regime should apply. World leaders and World Institutions should demonstrate more intestinal fortitude. Ultimately though Zimbabweans must get their own house in order, but they can do with all the help they can get. When Mr Mandela was asked about the 1981 Springbok tour during his visit to New Zealand in 1995, the former President said “When we heard that people in a country thousands of miles away were protesting about the loss of our humanity, the sun shone through the dark corridors of the cells on Robin Island.

It is ridiculous for Martin Snedden to suggest NZ Cricket does not have a choice with regard to touring Zimbabwe. Like all the worlds despots, Mugabe is driven by power and greed.

NZ cricket can choose to “constructively engage” with Zimbabwe under Mugabe or it can say “NEVER AGAIN”. It might not bring the despot down, but the sun will clearly shine throughout the dark corners of oppression in what used to be Africa’s food basket.

ENDS

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