I imagine that many African leaders, by which I mean those who have legitimate claim to leadership of their countries, feel caught up with the question of how to respond to the tragedy that has unfolded in Zimbabwe, where another old man, completely deluded, senile and devious has decided that nothing but death (which hopefully will come sooner rather than later) separates them from the fate of this country and citizenry. Especially given the complicated history of Zimbabwe's colonial history and that old man's role in ending it. But the time is now for South Africa and Nigeria (along with other already vocal members of the SADC) to take a clear position on Zimbabwe. It is not enough anymore to be doing the so-called background diplomacy, because it does not seem to be working. In a different context, one would be sympathetic to the idea that African leaders don't want to be seen as siding with the West on Zimbabwe. Not with the hundreds, perhaps much more, that have been reportedly killed just to keep Mugabe in power, despite the clear statement made by the citizens in the first round of elections earlier this year: that they are tired of Mugabe's regime and would rather try something else after 28 increasingly tragic years of misrule. Of course, the failure of the Zimbabwean economy under Mugabe may have been orchestrated by international forces who in their vindictive mindset seek to punish that government for waking up late in the day (as a means to hang on to power I must add) to return to the vexed question of redistribution of nation's resources. But, perhaps what ought to be the issue--which the Zimbabweans themselves seemed to have made obvious through the results of the elections earlier in the year--is that it is time to try a different tactic and strategy, one that is not so confused with outworn anticolonialist rhetoric and rancid nationalism.
The silence of some influential African leaders now gives the impression that it is only the West that apparently has problems with later Mugabe and his regime. No, the man has expired as a useful actor in the realm of Zimbabwean and African political practice. While he was a hero of Zimbabwe's independence, he is now an anti-hero, a villain, a slough of his former self who, for his own sake but especially for the people of Zimbabwe, ought not be allowed to stay on in power. With the way he has completely overturned the wishes of the Zimbabwean people through sheer violence and official intimidation, he does not deserve the courtesy of silence, or even of quiet diplomacy. Nor does the argument for a "Zimbabwean solution" to the menace suffice, simply because Mugabe has emasculated civil society, stifled opposition, and reduced the masses to such poverty and hunger that all they now answer to is stipendiary politics of which the state has total control.
African leaders must show true leadership and concern for the fate of Africa and Africans by declaring publicly their position on the rape of Zimbabwe by a man who you would have thought (well, that is if you for once forgot that he is reenacting a kind of politics, the self-installation of rulers-for-life, many countries in Africa have had to endure since the 1960s with grave consequences) would give his life to see that he left Zimbabwe a prosperous, stable country, to show the former colonial masters that he indeed was right to have waged a revolutionary war of independence. He must be called out, by African political leadership, not just by Desmund Tutu and Nelson Mandela.