Izwi Grilled

Here’s a Q&A on Thabo Mbeki and Zimbabwe I did with Murray Williams for the Cape Argus’ Friday Grill column.

MW: Do white South Africans reserve special hatred for President Robert Mugabe because he is black?

Izwi: I can’t speak for others. As far as I’m concerned, misrule is misrule is misrule. The one specifically race-related objection I have to Mugabe’s conduct is that he is reinforcing every terrible stereotype about this continent and its people.

MW: Has Mbeki been answerable to South Africans about his policy on Zimbabwe?

Izwi: We live in a democracy so of course Mbeki is answerable for all his actions on any issue. He did a lot of answering in Polokwane last December. Continue reading “Izwi Grilled”


Constructive Engagement

Ill-informed calumny is an occupational hazard for practitioners of constructive engagement if they fail, as they often will, to gratify quickly. Calumny because they will very likely be seen as supping with the devil; ill-informed because constructive engagement entails quiet diplomacy and the use of public statements less to inform than to manipulate.

I have no inside knowledge of President Mbeki’s constructive engagement with President Mugabe and his securocrats.  I did however spend five years reporting on Dr Chester Crocker’s constructive engagement with South Africa’s ancien regime to secure Namibian independence.

In Crocker, I saw a master at work, and watched him calumnied and traduced at almost every step. Indeed, I joined in the calumny myself from time to time in a journalist’s frustration at not being privy to his every play.  But finally I was there in the UN Security Council chamber in late 1988 to witness his perseverance pay off: Angolans, South Africans, Namibians, Cubans and Russians all falling like silver balls into the slots of a child’s puzzle. Continue reading “Constructive Engagement”