Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 12 August 2008

Modern South Africa, a country with no shame


By Jimmy Mulla

August 11, 2008 — Since South Africa assumed a seat as a non-Permanent Member of the Security Council for the period 2007-2008, it has used its position on the Council to suppress resolutions condemning acts of violence and human rights violation elsewhere in Africa. Apparently the supposedly great African nation has no problems with the conflict in Darfur and recent ICC indictment of Sudan’s president, election troubles in Zimbabwe, or the xenophobic violence directed against immigrants on its own soil. Blinded by self interest as exemplified by Dumisani Kumalo, its UN ambassador, South Africa’s hope to spearhead democratic reforms, justice, peace and security on the continent in the post-apartheid era is becoming an illusion. Modern South Africa has become a country with no shame.

Victims in Sudan, Zimbabwe and South Africa’s own immigrant communities, who are being killed and driven from their homes to live in shelters, can only wonder why the very country and population whom they supported during the apartheid era have no sympathy for them. At the height of the struggle for liberation, many neighboring countries welcomed South Africans, fighting along side and bearing the brunt of the struggle against apartheid. For instance, Samora Machel, Mozambique’s first president, died in a plane-crash on South African soil. The apartheid regime invaded Angola and recruited mercenaries to destabilize neighboring countries. Today, though, the very hospitable neighbors who sacrificed their lives are now being butchered by South Africans, whereas South Africa’s seat at the Security Council has become a platform for suppressing justice on the continent.

In reference to Darfur, although United Nations records prove that thousands of people have been killed and many more have been driven from their homes, South African ambassador to UN Security Council apparently sees no wrong being done to the people of Darfur. Apart from stifling resolutions at the Security Council, South African ambassador shows complete indifference to the issues facing the continent, especially in the case of Sudan where most egregious human rights violation occurred. Not only have there been from South Africa strong statements in defense of Khartoum at the Security Council, but on the Council’s five nation tour to Sudan and on the trips to Darfur, South African UN ambassador Dumisani Kumalo displayed a strong bond with the Sudan UN ambassador, walking hand-in-hand and even hugging him.

Notwithstanding the ICC indictment of Sudanese president Al-Bashir, South Africa is again trying to delay and suspend the indictment proceedings indefinitely. As Kumalo expressed it "We are not saying ’stop doing it’ to the prosecutor of the ICC,” but peace should be given a chance and a deployment of UNAMID should be allowed to take effect within a one year period. (Reuters: July 30, 08)

However, the realities are that there is no peace in Darfur to be kept, and the Sudan government has deliberately continued to delay the deployment UNAMID, of which the South African ambassador is well aware.

According to Reuter’s News Agency (August 06, 2008), the security situation in Darfur has worsened, with only 9,500 out of a planned total of 26,000 UNAMID troops and police deployed. Reportedly, the major obstacles in the deployment process are the Sudanese government’s concerns about the composition of the forces, and the failure of contributing countries to provide troops and helicopters. So the issue in point is not the length of time needed, but rather Khartoum’s reluctance to cooperate.

Along the same lines, South Africa president Thabo Mbeki, supposedly one of the most respected leaders in Africa, has also weighed in strongly in favor of suspending or stopping the whole ICC indictment process. In a recent interview in France, Mbeki said that “Sudanese president Omer El-Bashir must not be indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.” (ST)

When the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2005, South Africa was at the forefront of the celebrations, displaying what appeared to be a sincere concern for peace and security. South Africa positioned itself as the main beneficiary of the Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) that was created for development of Sudan’s war ravaged areas. South Africa made big gains in Sudan, providing some training to South Sudan government personnel through the Pretoria-based Centre for African Renaissance Studies at the University of South Africa, and engaging in many business ventures. On the flip side, however, when conflict erupted in Abyei a town in Southern Sudan where thousands of people were driven from their homes and the whole town burned to the ground, South Africa was silent. Apparently, what happens to the people in Sudan does not matter; the South African government is more concerned about its own gains, a position not different from the apartheid era.

The case of Zimbabwe is yet another sad page on South Africa policy. On the one hand, Zimbabwe immigrant workers crossed into South Africa in search of better life and opportunity, and to escape the tyranny of Robert Mugabe. On the other hand, the South African government is busy working hard in the UN Security Council’s corridors of power to keep Mugabe in power, while the local population is violently attacking those who have emigrated to South Africa to escape him.

According to Sean Jacobs of The Guardian, 22 people, mainly Zimbabwean immigrants, were murdered by groups of South Africans in orchestrated attacks in poor townships around Johannesburg. Two people were burned to death.

(See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/19/southafricashardthruths)

Underlying these realities, as the international community searches for answers to resolve conflicts in countries such as Sudan, Zimbabwe and other areas in the continent, South Africa has little to offer. Modern South Africa, a country whose population cried endlessly for sympathy, understanding and won support from around the world, does not seem to use its own experience to be authentic and use fair judgment in its approach to policies in Africa. Although the country’s leaders prides themselves as champions on international issues in Africa, time has shown that they do not fit that profile. Instead modern South Africa epitomized by its UN ambassador is a country with no remorse for victims of injustice locally or internationally. Rather it’s a nation with no shame.

* The author is the President of Southern Sudanese Voice for Freedom, and Advocacy group in Washington, D.C. . He can be reached at jbmulla@yahoo.com

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  • 12 August 2008 14:15, by Akol Liai Mager

    Dear Jimmy,

    Thank you for your article that have highlighted some important points especially the position taken by S. African government and its UNSC’s Ambassador in regard to ICC arrest warrant request against Al Bashir.

    You did your part well. However, it’s a turn for Huaman rights and peace activist, Darfur Action Now and other wolrd infuential jurnalists to do their parts. They must ask S. Africa leaders to explain to the world about whereabouts the peace that need to be given a chance?

    The only icons left for the people to see in Darfur are NIF in Chines and Russian Tanks, Janjuweeds heavily armed to teeth on horses backs, Russian Mig 29, Antinop bombers in sky over Darfur and houses burnt to hashes. Are these the peace that need to be given a chance? Or is it the one NIF signed with Arquo Mini Minawi that was killed by NIF Militias with Minawi top Aides in first Omdurman’s battle?

    It is not only annoying to see regional Organisations trying to block a path for justice, but it is a very provokative act.

    S. Africa leaders are so lucky because their country boarder non Arab country and Arab expansion would just reach them when they are dead. But what they do not know is that the younger generation will suffer because of their actions just like African present generation in Sudan and Muritania in north west Africa.

    They (S. Africa leaders) are doing the same thing that Dr Ali Hajj Mohamed was doing in S. Sudan between 1989 - 1998. Look at him now and you cannot believe this is the man if you realy knew that Ali Hajj of 90s.

    Dear Jimmy, you are real voice of New Sudan that include Darfur keep the move and thanks.

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