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Quiet diplomacy is not the alternative to an Iraq

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel’s claim that foreign intervention to impose regime change in Zimbabwe would occasion another Iraq is patently wrong.

The finance minister, who I would love to see as our next president, has clearly not thought this thing through.

It hardly needs pointing out that foreign intervention is not the only way to achieve regime change.

Simply ensuring a fair election by all Zimbabweans, which includes the millions of exiles, using international monitoring will bring in the government desired by the people of that country.

Of course attempts to prop up the economy and allowing Mugabe to amend the Constitution to rig the elections once again are most unhelpful.

The irony for me is that South Africa and Southern Africa have far more compelling reasons to ensure the end of tyranny in Zimbabwe than America and Britain ever had in Iraq.

The reason given by the Allies, ie weapons of mass destruction, had no basis whatsoever. In terms of the “War on Terror”, Afghanistan is more compelling than Iraq.

While it is generally accepted that economic factors drove that invasion, the manner in which it was done and the lies that were told to motivate it need careful investigation.

That falls outside the ambit of this article.

What is germane is that Zimbabwe is destabilising the whole region while the Iraq pre-invasion was a balancing factor that kept the regional powerm Iran, in check.

Iraq is made up of a majority Shi’ite population who were being ruled by the minority Sunni, via the Ba’ath Party. This is without factoring in the Kurds to the north. It is not a unified country in the way that Zimbabwe is.

The Shi’ites see a natural alliance with Iran and the Americans and other foreign troops as invaders, not liberators.

The Sunnis who were ousted from power have no love for the Americans.

Iran is supporting the Shi’ite insurgents and al-Qeada is fermenting revolt among the Sunnis. This without taking into consideration the coalition government which is Shi’ite-dominated and will align with Iran as soon as the Yankees go home.

The Kurds are about the closest thing the Allies have to a local ally and that is due to their present semi-autonomy and the Turks who are ready to invade them should they ever set off Turkish Kurds by seeking a homeland.

If the Allies were to leave now, a full-scale civil war is on the cards.

This is of their own making.

Zimbaweans want peace and a return to normality. They will not erupt into civil war, but rather seek redress for the disgraceful way this government has behaved.

Foreign intervention, led by the SADC, should take the form of :

1. Advising Mugabe that any attempts to amend the Constitution, use state assets to buy votes or commit political violence will draw sanctions along the lines imposed by the international community.

2. The elections are to include all Zimbabweans, which shall mean also those living in exile or as refugees.

3. Any fact-finding mission that is turned back, such as that of Cosatu, will attract sanctions.

4. Any attempt to stifle the press or the opposition parties will draw sanctions.

5. Elections are to be held under the strictest scrutiny by an international election monitoring organisation acceptable to the opposition.

6. No military or police personnel are allowed anywhere near polling stations.

Foreign assistance as reccommended by the SADC finance ministers shall be allowed until the elections.

As for the negotiations which Zanu-PF totally ignored, those can now be abandoned.

Iraq and Zimbabwe bear no resemblence to each other whatsoever.

While the bulk of Zimbabweans would love to see military intervention, like Mr Manuel, I do not
believe that it will provide a long-term solution. Not because it would be another Iraq, hardly, but because it would not provide the long-term stability that a credible election would do.

Because Africa needs to be seen to be able to police itself and do the right thing.


  • Mike Trapido is a criminal attorney and publicist having also worked as an editor and journalist. He was born in Johannesburg and attended HA Jack and Highlands North High Schools. He married Robyn in 1984 (Mrs Traps, aka "the government") and has three sons (who all look suspiciously like her ex-boss). He was a counsellor on the JCCI for a year around 1992. His passions include Derby County, Blue Bulls, Orlando Pirates, Proteas and Springboks. He takes Valium in order to cope with Bafana Bafana's results. Practice Michael Trapido Attorney (civil and criminal) 011 022 7332 Facebook


  1. Frankly Speaking Frankly Speaking 27 August 2007

    Your analysis of the Iraq war is closer to the real situation as your analysis of Zimbabwe and the southern African region.

    To mention only one glaring flaw, you say that “the Allies” may find an ally in the Kurds. Are you unaware that the Kurd and Shi’ite groups that still have representation in the cabinet? Nor do you seem aware that the Iranian influence in Iraq is the single most important stabilizing force at the moment, and one which has been invited by Iraqis. If you are attempting to point out that you have a better handle on the Iraqi situation than Trevor Manual, or indeed any of us readers, I’m afraid you haven’t convinced me.

    On what basis do you claim that the majority of Zimbabweans would like to see military intervention? As to the so called rigged elections, I am sure that only an MDC election win will convince Trip and the Rhodesians, that the elections were not rigged.

  2. Frank Vox Frank Vox 27 August 2007

    “Your analysis of … is no closer to … than …”, is what I meant. Also, The Kurds and Shi’ite groups are the only ones still in the cabinet. (sorry for my untalented editing)

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