A Betrayal of Mandela’s Legacy: Rights group
July 18, NY: It came as no surprise to me last week when the South African government chose to remain silent after Zimbabwean police brutally cracked down on people protesting the economic collapse and widespread poverty in Zimbabwe. South Africa has long failed to call out the Zimbabwean government for its abuses against opposition members and ordinary citizens.
What shocked me, however, was when Gwede Mantashe, the secretary general of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party, labelled the protesters “sponsored elements seeking regime change” and no one from the government spoke out in support of the right of peaceful protest. The silence is particularly disturbing given the importance of peaceful protest in ending apartheid in South Africa.
Then-President Nelson Mandela declared in 1994 that “human rights will be the light that guides our foreign policy.” But under President Jacob Zuma, South Africa has had an inconsistent approach to human rights abuses on the continent. In particular the government has long overlooked human rights abuses in Zimbabwe even though Zimbabwe’s serious human rights problems have forced countless Zimbabweans to flee persecution and seek asylum in South Africa.
Today, as South Africa commemorates Nelson Mandela Day, I find myself wondering just how far the country will stray from Mandela’s legacy. South Africa needs to press the reset button on its international relations and return the country to the moral high ground that Mandela wished to see it occupy. It is impossible for Zuma to be another Mandela, but South Africa should steer a clear and consistent foreign policy course guided by its constitutional values of respect for human rights, equality and dignity for all.
A more consistent, human rights-centered approach to international relations would help improve South Africa’s regional and international standing. This would be in line with the country’s rights-focused constitution and a fitting tribute to Nelson Mandela.
The Oslo Times International News Network