South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu has strongly criticised the failure of African leaders to condemn human rights violations.
In an interview with Reuters, Archbishop Tutu said he believed that many Zimbabweans felt betrayed by the failure of leaders in Africa to speak out against the campaign of political oppression being led by Robert Mugabe’s government in Zimbabwe.
He also said that South Africa should consider threatening action against Zimbabwe over the continued repression, heightened recently after police detained and beat opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and other members of the Movement for Democratic Change.
"Many people in Zimbabwe now will be saying at the very least there ought to be a universal condemnation of President Mugabe," the former Archbishop of Cape Town and a Nobel laureate told the news agency.
Africa seems "so reluctant just to call a spade a spade. Human rights violations are human rights violations".
Images of a bruised Tsvangirai surfaced in the media following his detention by Zimbabwean police, sparking widespread condemnation from Western countries, including Britain and the US. African leaders remained largely silent on the incident, however.
Archbishop Tutu attributed their silence to Mugabe’s legacy as a “freedom fighter” who helped end white minority rule in Zimbabwe. But while he said he had the “highest regard” for Mugabe, he accused him of “destroying an incredible country”.
He criticised South Africa’s inaction in particular, saying, “Especially South Africa should say 'look here, we have tried to persuade you, maybe we ought to be beginning to threaten to turn off the tap'."