ANC bemoans ‘failed leadership’ in Zimbabwe (Lead)

June 26th, 2008 - 5:55 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown
Johannesburg/London, June 26 (DPA) A day ahead of elections in Zimbabwe described as a “sham” by the opposition and Western powers, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress echoed former president Nelson Mandela’s assessment that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe had failed as a leader. “This is a failure, a very sad failure of leadership,” ANC spokeswoman Jessie Duarte told the BBC in an interview broadcast Thursday.

On Wednesday evening Mandela, seen as one of the world’s leading moral authorities, broke his years-long silence on Zimbabwe to condemn the tyrannical rule of 84-year-old Mugabe, who has vowed to press ahead with elections Friday in which he is the only candidate.

“Nearer to home we have seen the outbreak of violence against fellow Africans in our own country and the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe,” Mandela told a charity dinner in London.

The dinner, which was attended by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other dignitaries, was part of a string of events marking Mandela’s 90th birthday on July 18.

His intervention was welcomed by British commentators Thursday, who said his remarks had made the international isolation of the regime of Robert Mugabe complete.

Mugabe will contest Friday’s run-off presidential vote alone after opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out last week, citing fears for the safety of MDC supporters.

Around 300 MDC supporters sought refuge in the South Africa embassy in Harare Wednesday evening, as state-sponsored militia continue their attacks on the opposition, which the MDC says has claimed around 90 lives since late March.

The attacks had been seen as designed to terrorize Zimbabweans into voting for Mugabe after Tsvangirai won the first round of voting for president on March 29.

While lauding Mandela as a “great moral authority in South Africa and on our continent” the ANC’s Duarte rejected the suggestion that his remarks on leadership also related to South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” in Zimbabwe, seen as biased in favour of Mugabe by the MDC, has been blamed by some as emboldening Mugabe but Duarte said: “We believe President Mbeki’s mediation has given some results.”

She also denied that Mbeki and ANC president Jacob Zuma, who has been more critical of Mugabe, were “running counter to one another” on the issue.

A high-level South African delegation is in Harare to try to broker talks on a unity government between Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and the MDC but Mugabe has said he will only entertain talks after Friday’s vote, which US President George W Bush called “a sham.”

The United Nations and the South African Development Community have called for the vote, which could entrench Mugabe’s rule for another five years, to be postponed.

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