- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Yesterday, South African President Thabo Mbeki claimed that there is “no crisis” in Zimbabwe. By this definition, there is no such thing as a crisis. The same day Mr. Mbeki spoke these words, a second major opposition leader was murdered. The first was stabbed to death Saturday by supporters of Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF political party. Two weeks have passed since the election. The regime continues to suppress the results. Violence is now erupting. Mr. Mbeki, for too long a comfortable friend of Mr. Mugabe, is in danger of solidifying a very ignominious role in history as sidekick to the man who ruined Zimbabwe.

Mr. Mugabe and his party lost. Either the ZANU-PF lost already or it faces a runoff that it will lose with certainty. Regime-controlled election commissioners cite a technicality in justification of their continued withholding of the election results. It is nonsense. The regime will only retain power by force, to which Mr. Mugabe is no stranger. The body count of murdered opposition figures, killed at the hands of regime proxies, will mount. It is a matter of time before they target opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who, as it happens, was nearly beaten to death previously by Mr. Mugabe’s police.

Now is the moment for neighboring countries, the United Nations and Western powers to speak as one as they cut off the Mugabe regime’s financial lifeline and call for the dictator to step down. But so few are willing. Mr. Mbeki’s South Africa holds a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, and we see what Mr. Mbeki thinks. Cuba, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia also sit on the council — countries that exhort others not to meddle in their “internal affairs.” This is a “human rights” body worthy of George Orwell. Meanwhile, Western powers consider Zimbabwe too distant and too peripheral for tough action.

Neighboring countries are the most readily affected by this crisis. They have the strongest incentive to care. But South Africa, Botswana and others are content to see the problem contained and not solved if it means that fewer refugees pour forth.

Toward that end, they should help dislodge the regime whose offenses include the world’s worst inflation rate, the bulldozing of hundreds of thousands of citizens’ homes and a ruinous three decades of power that made a pauper of Africa’s onetime breadbasket.

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