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Democracies Condemn Mugabe's Tyranny

March 27, 2002

Re "South Africa Shouldn't Have to Go Tougher on Mugabe," Commentary, March 20: Why does it matter that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe may have been perceived as more pro-Western than his chief political opponent when he assumed power over 20 years ago? The pressing issue today is that his government has systematically violated human rights, shattered the rule of law and, by most observers' accounts, stolen the recent presidential election.

This commentary suggests that some view the Movement for Democratic Change with suspicion because white Zimbabweans, less than 1% of the population, support it. What distinguishes the political opposition in Zimbabwe for many others is its admirable commitment to nonviolence in the face of violent government attack, though it is worth noting that a few white MDC parliamentarians have won election in overwhelmingly black constituencies, which represent unique acts of racial reconciliation. The victims of government violence in Zimbabwe, by the way, are overwhelmingly black.

No one is looking to "punish" South Africa. The Mugabe government has already done that by its economic mismanagement and by creating a political cloud over the region that has driven away foreign investment. What many South Africans themselves hope for (made clear in the lively South African press) is that their government honors its democratic principles by vocally condemning Mugabe's tyranny north of its border.

Having suffered through apartheid, South Africans know the power of principled international criticism in challenging oppression.

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton)

Chairman, House Subcommittee

on Africa, Washington

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