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Can anyone save Zimbabwe's democracy?
Southern African leaders could hold the key to solving Zimbabwe’s violent political impasse, but will they?
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hat happened
Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai accused President Robert Mugabe of ruling through a “military junta,” as violence continues in the run-up to a June 27 presidential runoff election. Tsvangirai said 66 opposition supporters have been killed since the first election in March, with 3,000 more hospitalized due to state-sponsored violence. (BBC News) Human Rights Watch said that government violence made a free and fair runoff election impossible. (Reuters)

What the commentators said
Mugabe has “declared war” on Tsvangirai’s party, said Richard Dowden in The Times of London, and there’s “zero” chance he’ll let himself be defeated at the ballot box. But if he “wins” under these circumstances, “the reaction of the regional leaders would be crucial.” The key player is South Africa, but President Thabo Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy has failed,” and the “Kenya-style government of national unity” proposed by his successor, Jacob Zuma, is “unthinkable.”

There’s still one South African, Nelson Mandela, whose “smallest word” would make a “huge difference,” said Christopher Hitchens in Slate. Instead he’s “apparently toeing the scandalous line” taken by Mbeki. Mandela’s “silence” makes him “complicit in the pillage and murder” of Zimbabweans and the “strangulation” of its democracy, and it “bruises the soul” that he’s ending his heroic career like this.

Mandela actually urged Mugabe to resign last November, said The Miami Herald in an editorial, and Mugabe ignored his plea. Still, “Mbeki and other regional leaders” are the ones “best positioned to demand and enforce a cessation of violence.” And demand it they must, then push for internationally monitored “fair elections”—the time to “stand by as mute witnesseses to a travesty” is long past.

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