Mandela speaks out against Mugabe during London visit

By staff writers
June 25, 2008

After years of private anger, masked by a diplomatic commitment not to undermine his successor as South African president, Nelson Mandela has condemned Robert Mugabe's dictatorial regime in Zimbabwe.

His statement came as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced to parliament "intensified financial and diplomatic sanctions" against the regime, as the Queen stripped Mr Mugabe of an honourary knighthood, and as the England and Wales Cricket board called off a Zimbabwe cricket tour next year.

Mr Mandela has been retired and out of the public eye for some time, but it is seen as significant that he chose the occasion of a reception in London for his 90th birthday to speak out.

He talked of a "tragic failure of leadership" in Zimbabwe and of the appalling nature of African violence and murder directed against fellow Africans.

The news of Mr Mandela's words, confirming what many have known to be his feelings for some time, will reverberate around the world. South African Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu, also, has been outspoken in his criticism of the Mugabe regime.

But the news is unlikely to make much impact in Zimbabwe itself, where the government exercises tight control over the media.

Critics are also likely to say that Mr Mandela's words are "too few and too late", though it is recognised that, like the largely symbolic actions taken in Britain today, the direct impact of disapproval is negligible as far as Mr Mugabe is concerned.

"All he really recognises is raw power", declared BBC correspondent John Simpson tonight, commenting that the Zimbabwean leader would have to go sooner or later - the question was when, and how much damage and violence he would inflict before the opposition succeeded.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean-born general secretary of the 68-million-strong Lutheran World Federation, the Rev Ishmael Noko, has said that those who have criticised churches for lagging behind secular society in taking leadership over troubled Zimbabwe are justified in their point, and that churches have made a mistake in assessing the country's president, Robert Mugabe.

Noko was speaking at a press conference the day before the opening of the 25-30 June gathering of the LWF's main governing body, its council, which is meeting in Arusha in northern Tanzania - reports Ecumenical News International.

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