By Basildon Peta, Southern Africa Correspondent
25 August 2004
The United States has called for the building of a "coalition of the willing" to push for regime change to end the crisis in Zimbabwe. The new American ambassador to South Africa, Jendayi Frazer, said quiet diplomacy pursued by South Africa and other African countries in its dealings with the Zimbabwe president needed a review because there was no evidence it was working. She said her country would be willing to be part of a coalition if invited.
The US could not act on its own, "put the boot on the ground" and give President Robert Mugabe 48 hours to go as requested by beleaguered Zimbaweans but the US would be willing to work in a coalition with other countries to return Zimbabwe to democracy.
Ms Frazer, in a meeting with journalists in Johannesburg yesterday, said: "There is clearly a crisis in Zimbabwe and everyone needs to state that fact. The economy is in a free fall. There is a continuing repressive environment. There needs to be a return to democracy."
She said the US believed that South Africa could play a positive role in returning Zimbabwe to democracy and that it had the means to do so. "It [South Africa] has the most leverage probably of any other country in the sub-region and should therefore take a leadership role," said Ms Frazer, a protege of President George Bush's national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
Ms Frazer's expression of a more aggressive US line towards the Mugabe regime came the day before the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, arrives in South Africa for series of bilateral meetings with the Mbeki government during which he intends to raise the question of Zimbabwe.
The International Parliamentary Union (IPU) released a report yesterday accusing the regime of doing nothing to stop its violent youth militias from persecuting and torturing parliamentarians of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The report was released after the IPU's three-month mission to Zimbabwe. Mr Mugabe has approved new legislation that will ban foreign non-governmental organisations working in the human rights field in Zimbabwe and the banning of foreign funding to Zimbabwean NGOs. Churches have warned the proposed law would hinder their efforts to feed hungry Zimbabweans.
Ms Frazer said it was particularly important to have Zimbabwe returned to democracy because the New Partnership for Africa Development talked about Africa's responsibility for democratic governance across the continent. "The African Union (AU) and South Africa had already accepted the responsibility to promote democracy and they should do so specifically in the case of Zimbabwe," she said.
She noted that repression in Zimbabwe had worsened and was making it impossible for the opposition to operate ahead of elections next year.
"So we have got to re-look at the approach, that South Africa is taking in terms of quiet diplomacy ... It's not evident that it's working at this point
"We have always talked about building coalitions of the willing and I, for one, believe that the coalitions of the willing are going to be the new force in global affairs ..."
Instead of quiet diplomacy, Ms Frazer suggested an open admission by regional countries that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe. That was an important first step followed by pressure to force Mr Mugabe to return the country to democracy.
The anti-Western bashing that was carried out by SADC leaders at their summit in Mauritius last week would not help change President Mugabe, she said. The Tanzanian President, Benjamin Mkapa, had lashed out at the West saying it cannot lecture democracy to African countries which it oppressed through a policy of colonialism in the first place. http://news.independent.co.uk/world/africa/story.jsp?story=554794