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Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
SA media urges action on Zimbabwe
South African newspaper editorials have begun criticising the government's apparent refusal to take a firm regional lead on developments in Zimbabwe.
They have also been examining the wider political and economic implications and asking searching questions about what the future holds in the wake of President Mugabe's comments on Independence Day.
Under the headline "Zimbabwe: Time for Mbeki to declare where he stands", the Financial Mail said that, as the crisis in South Africa's neighbour deepened, its capacity to spill over into other countries in the region was increasing proportionately.
It contrasted Pretoria's failure so far to condemn the situation in Zimbabwe with its decision to intervene militarily in Lesotho in 1998 after weeks of political turmoil and civil unrest.
"Awesome vistas come to mind", the paper wrote.
"Major disruption of commercial farming and loss of foreign exchange earned through the sale of tobacco; hunger as food supplies slow to a trickle amid rising prices for the little that is available; and growing anger in the cities as enraged residents there take to the streets to protest against the conspicuous wealth of Zanu-PF notables."
More trouble in store
"These glimpses into the future serve as warnings that even graver times may lie ahead, not least the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy and the degeneration of SA's [South Africa's] most important trading partner into a lawless state where judges are ignored and political differences are settled by violence," the Financial Mail wrote.
It noted the possibility that South Africa could experience similar land invasions to those occurring in Zimbabwe.
"Yet, in the midst of these developments, Mbeki has refused to speak out publicly against Mugabe's contempt for the rule of law. Instead he has maintained a discreet public silence and opted for quiet diplomacy to express whatever misgivings the government may have.
"But his silence may be misinterpreted as condonation, particularly when SA's 1998 military intervention in Lesotho is recalled. "
What price the SADC?
Business Day took a look at the regional implications of the crisis in Zimbabwe.
It said recent developments there should be "setting off alarm bells" regarding the effectiveness of the organisation designed to bring about conflict prevention within the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The paper pointed out that President Mugabe has nominally chaired the SADC body on Politics, Defence and Security established in 1996.
The body's draft protocol calls on the SADC to intervene when instability arises from the breakdown of law and order and to use diplomacy to pre-empt conflict within states and promote the development of democratic institutions and practices.
"These commitments are in stark contrast to the veil of silence among the 13 other SADC member states regarding the apparent suspension of the rule of law and the use of violence and intimidation in the run-up to elections in Zimbabwe," the paper said.
"Where are the voices of Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia, Tanzania, Malawi... and others? And what of the Organisation for African Unity?"
'Tiptoeing around the problem'
The Natal Witness also called on Pretoria to condemn events in Zimbabwe.
"The world is weary of watching the anarchic collapse of country after African country. It is troubled and exasperated by the spectacle of Mugabe destroying Zimbabwe's economy by his wild utterances, and, most recently, by his encouragement of invasions of white-owned farms by war veterans," the paper said.
"Instead, until this week, South Africa, in the persons of President Thabo Mbeki and former president Nelson Mandela, has tiptoed around the problem, not approving, not condemning, perhaps hoping it would go away."
"Zimbabwe is a powder keg whose explosion could be disastrous for the region. It is South Africa's responsibility to face this fact and take steps to halt Mugabe's runaway madness.
"It's time for South Africa to express strong criticism of events in Zimbabwe and to seek ways of controlling the damage."
BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.
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