Ex- president Frederick de Klerk of South Africa urged military action to remove Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe from power yesterday. It has also just become known that Mugabe's top military commander was injured in an assassination attempt.
De Klerk thus has joined the growing number of elderly South African leaders who want Mugabe removed by force. Archbishop-Emeritius Desmond Tutu and senior Inkatha Freedom Party leader Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi also issued similar calls earlier this month - also noting that with so many people now dying in the cholera epidemic, urgent intervention is needed. One black Pretoria bishop even referred to Mugabe as 'a Hitler'...
"If Mugabe doesn't quit, of his own accord and soon, military action to remove him would be justified', said Mr De Klerk on Monday in an interview with the Dutch TV-programme NOVA.
Close the borders with Zimbabwe
Also yesterday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has held a closed-door session on the Mugabe issue in New York It was attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. An unnamed US diplomat said he would like to see Zimbabwe's neighbours - especially South Africa -- close its borders.
De Klerk, who was South Africa's last Afrikaner president and was largely instrumental in handing over hegemony of the wealthy African country to the current black-majority government -- says that he is deeply somber about the future of Zimbabwe if Mugabe stays in power. "It seems to me that he cannot be reasoned with at all. He's had his chances, and he has blown them all.'
Nearly 1,000 deaths in cholera epidemic
Mugabe's distrastrous rule has plunged Zimbabwe in an unprecented financial, political and humanitarian crisis, he said."And the latest in this string of tragedies is the cholera epidemic which has now cost the lives of nearly 1,000 people.'
De Klerk was co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize with former president Nelson Mandela - whom he also released from prison.
The Afrikaner ex-president now runs his own foundation, the F W de Klerk Foundation, and undertakes speaking engagements worldwide. Lately he has undergone treatment for colon cancer.
In his speeches this past year, De Klerk has become increasingly critical of the current South African government - singling out the country 's devastating violent-crime rate, its steady erosion of the independent judiciary; its ineffective police force and the ANC-regime's abuse of minority rights.
Closed-session at UN
Also yesterday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has held a closed-door session on the Mugabe issue in New York It was attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In his briefing, Ban deplored the fact that "neither the (Harare) government nor the mediator(Mbeki) welcomes a United Nations political role,
"This clearly limits our ability to effectively help find immediate remedies to this crisis."
"The current cholera epidemic is only the most visible manifestation of a profound multi-sectoral crisis, encompassing food, agriculture, education, health, water, sanitation and HIV/Aids," he added.
"The people of Zimbabwe cannot afford to wait any longer. "The international community cannot afford to watch as the situation gets worse," Ban noted.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Washington has been talking to Zimbabwe's powerful neighbour South Africa and other Security Council members about how to "start a process that will bring an end to the tragedy that is unfolding in Zimbabwe".
seeTOP MUGABE MILITARY COMMANDER PERENCE SHIRI SURVIVES AMBUSH
It has also just become known that one of the country's cruelest military commanders, Mugabe's close friend Perence Shiri was injured in an assassination attempt in an ambush enroute to his farm Saturday. Home affairs minister Kembo Mohadi admitted the attack. Shiri is feared widely because of his Fifth Brigade's genocidal ethnic-cleansing campaign against the Matabele-minority tribe during the 1980s. Some 20.000 people were murdered and many women raped - and many mass-graves still await excavation to this day. Zimbabwe accuses Botswana of supporting the 'rebels who want to overthrow Mugabe'.
US troops in neighbouring Botswana
A contingent of US and Botswana troops were gathered in Gaborone Botswana this week to 'strengthen ties between the US and the Botswana defence force right on the Zimbabwean border - setting off rumours that a military intervention to unseat Mugabe may be on the cards.
Meanwhile in an unrelated event in neighbouring Botswana which borders both South Africa and Zimbabwe, local military officers and members of the US military command AFRICOM were engaged in a seminar on management systems and techniques this week at the Sir Seretse Khama Barracks in Gaborone, Botswana.
Led by members of the 17th Air Force based in Ramstein, Germany, in coordination with the U.S. Office of Security Cooperation, the military-to-military event introduced the officers to best practices for building a career path in the military, according to an AFRICOM report on its website.
"The training was geared to build the capacity of the Botswana Defence Force and strengthen ties between Botswana and the United States."