ONE year ago the annual summit meeting of the Southern African Development Community of fourteen countries was expected to deliver a final warning to President Mugabe to mend his ways in governing Zimbabwe.

Instead he was given a standing ovation and he returned to his country confident that he could pursue his disastrous policies without criticism from his fellow African leaders.

Another Community summit begins today in Lusaka and this time Mr Mugabe has been assured in advance of the support of South Africa whose President Mbeki has said he agrees with Mr Mugabe's analysis that Britain and the United States are to blame for Zimbabwe's economic meltdown.

This is an extraordinary intervention by President Mbeki who has frequently said he was pursuing a policy of “quiet diplomacy” to persuade Mr Mugabe to moderate his dictatorial rule by bringing Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change into consultation.

He has made no progress in this direction and perhaps finds it easier to blame Britain and US for Zimbabwe's plight than to speak frankly to Mr Mugabe.
President Mbeki seems ready to take an outdated anti-colonialist line when he thinks there may be some short term advantage in it.
But if today's Lusaka meeting of Southern African leaders fails to take a tougher approach towards President Mugabe it will send a disturbing message to the world that they are content to watch millions of Zimbabweans oppressed and brought close to starvation without making any protest or taking any action.


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