NYT Recites Litany of Excuses in Report on Mbeki and Mugabe

Robert Mugabe continues to take Zimbabwe into utter ruin. A former breadbasket when it was colonial Rhodesia, it is now a starving, rotting basket case.

The latest development in the ongoing nightmare: A sham "runoff" election where Mugabe is the only candidate, thanks to "violence against .... opposition members," whose candidate dropped out of the race less than a week ago.

For nearly a decade, we've been told, "Don't worry, (South African President Thabo) Mbeki will handle him."

In an article carrying today's date, the New York Times's Celia W. Dugger and Barry Bearak continue to make excuses for Mbeki. More on that shortly.

Meanwhile, the downward spiral has continued to the point where the country of roughly 13 million is now in a dire humanitarian crisis:

Two million children face starvation in Zimbabwe, according to a personal account of the unfolding tragedy in the country by a young church leader published in an attempt to force further action by the international community.

..... half the population, including close to two million children, (are) "facing starvation", according to the account on the World Council of Churches (WCC) website on Thursday.

Given that reality, the report by Dugger and Bearak is a near-complete cop-out, from its the headline to its final word, as it indulges in the fantasy, at least based the track record, that Mbeki has the power and the will to do something:

Complex Ties Lead Ally Not to Condemn Mugabe

(In April 2000) President Robert Mugabe’s enforcers had already begun to rampage across Zimbabwe, beating his political opponents, when television cameras captured a startling image of Mr. Mugabe holding hands with the smiling South African president, Thabo Mbeki, a professed champion of African democracy.

..... Eight years later, in April 2008, much the same scene repeated itself. ..... Again, the despot and the democrat genially clasped hands as Mr. Mbeki declared that there was no political crisis in Zimbabwe.

The complex relationship between these men, stretching back almost 30 years, is crucial to fathoming why Mr. Mbeki, picked last year by regional leaders to officially mediate Zimbabwe’s conflict, does not publicly criticize Mr. Mugabe, nor use South Africa’s unique economic leverage as the dominant nation in the region to curb his ruthless methods despite years of rigged elections.

..... Mr. Mbeki’s policy, typically called “quiet diplomacy,” is built on the staunch conviction that his special bond with Mr. Mugabe can resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe through patient negotiations, his colleagues and chroniclers say.

Mr. Mbeki’s biographers, his colleagues, even his brother debate why he has stuck with his approach despite years of bad faith by Mr. Mugabe. Mr. Mbeki’s consistency is variously attributed to a hubristic resistance to admitting failure, a worldview deeply suspicious of Western interference in African affairs, a hard-nosed calculation of political interests and a realistic assessment of the limits of South Africa’s power when confronted with an unrelenting autocrat.

..... While Mr. Mbeki had no illusions about Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Gevisser and others say, he felt a kinship with the hero of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle against white supremacist rule.

Zimbabwe became a separate, non-"white supremacist" nation 28 years ago.

How is it that the Times, or for that matter the rest of Mbeki's apologists, never entertain another very real possibility: that the South African President is serving as Mugabe's personal human shield, deflecting critics with his false "I'll solve it" promises, while in reality being sympathetic with Mugabe's totalitarian tactics? Is it because that would force a question as to whether Mbeki and his African National Congress might like to take South Africa to a similar place? And does anyone think a mediator trying to persuade an undemocratic right-wing regime to reform would get a decade's worth of slack from the media?

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.