Unexpected heroes: South Africa steps up

Good news involving South Africa and organized religion? That’s something you’ll see about as often as the pope hands out condoms to schoolchildren. But there it is, in black and white: China says weapons for Zimbabwe may turn back.

Why? Because in a tinder-flash of moral courage South African dock workers, trade unionists, Anglican clergy and the High Court each stood up and said: we’re not having it. Dock workers refused to unload the Chinese vessel, packed with more than 70 tons of arms worth over a million dollars. Trade unions backed them up while Anglican archbishop Thabo Makgoba spoke out, protesting the arms would be used to violently suppress the opposition in Zimbabwe’s running election battle. Incredibly, the High Court then sent the Chinese packing back to the high seas.

Hallelujah, the Movement for Democratic Change clings on another day. A brief respite from the lethal violence they must be dreading, and which they can only hope some miracle will forestall. (Hell, I remember Americans saying, not entirely in jest, that anyone who took out Bush would be doing the world a favour. How must the people of Zimbabwe feel after these last few years? Surely a just god would have smitten down Mugabe by now.)

China simpered that the shipment was part of “normal military trade” and the world shouldn’t “politicise” the issue. Why? Because abetting murder is okay if it’s “normal”? I’m sure that’s what the companies who sold the barbed wire that built Bergen-Belsen said…

Meanwhile, supporters of the legally elected – by everyone’s admission but Mugabe and co.’s – party in Zimbabwe are in fear of their lives. A coalition of the nation’s clergy have release a statement saying: “We warn the world that if nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe from their predicament, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda… and elsewhere.”

The words ominously echo the warning out of Rwanda that became the title of Philip Gourevitch’s award-winning book about the country’s horrific genocide: We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Familes.

Europe and the US, in particular, owe Rwanda an ineradicable debt of shame. You’d think we’d have learned our lesson; that we would stand up and say “no more.” But the heroism of South Africa’s dock workers makes a mockery of the mealy-mouthed denunciations of white, middle-class Western politicians. Courage is a muscle; unused it atrophies. Let’s send our politicians to the docks. Maybe an honest day’s work would reinvigorate their moral fibre.

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2 thoughts on “Unexpected heroes: South Africa steps up

  1. Pingback: Zimbabwe: the UK permits Mugabe’s brutal tactics « irresponsibility

  2. Pingback: Blood, Speeches and Fear: Zimbabwe « irresponsibility

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