Complex relationship keeps South African leader from criticizing Mugabe

source: International Herald Tribune
By Celia W. Dugger and Barry Bearak
Published: June 27, 2008

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

It was April 2000. And Mbeki, leader of the continent’s most powerful nation, spoke no evil of Mugabe’s repressive ways.

Eight years later, in April 2008, it was much the same scene. For two weeks, Zimbabwean election officials had refused to issue the results of an election that Mugabe had lost and a new wave of violence was beginning. Again, the despot and the democrat genially clasped hands as Mbeki declared there was no political crisis in Zimbabwe.

The complex relationship between these two men, stretching back almost 30 years, is crucial to fathoming why Mbeki, chosen last year by regional leaders to officially mediate the conflict in Zimbabwe, does not publicly criticize Mugabe or [continue reading]

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