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Tutu lambasts African silence on Zimbabwe
March 16, 2007

CAPE TOWN, South Africa: Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Friday lambasted African silence about the brutal treatment of democracy activists in Zimbabwe. "We Africans should hang our heads in shame," said Tutu, who is widely regarded as South Africa's moral conscience. "How can what is happening in Zimbabwe elicit hardly a word of concern let alone condemnation from us leaders of Africa?"

There has been increasing criticism of South Africa's refusal to condemn the arrest and beatings of scores of opposition demonstrators, including the main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

The foreign ministry earlier this week urged the Zimbabwean government to ensure laws were respected and work with the opposition toward "a lasting solution to the current challenges faced by the people of Zimbabwe."

But there has been silence from President Thabo Mbeki, who has consistently said South Africa will not meddle in its neighbor's affairs and that quiet diplomacy is preferable to public condemnation.

In his weekly African National Congress newsletter Friday, Mbeki said South Africans should use next week's annual Human Rights Day to address the continuing scourge of racism in the country. He made no mention of Zimbabwe.

South African human rights activists called on people to demonstrate in solidarity with Zimbabwe opposition leaders Saturday.

"After the horrible things done to hapless people in Harare, has come the recent crackdown on members of the opposition," Tutu said in a statement. "What more has to happen before we who are leaders, religious and political, of our mother Africa are moved to cry out 'Enough is enough?'"

The chairman of the African Union, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, said earlier this week that the organization found the turmoil in Zimbabwe "very embarrassing." Tanzania's president traveled to Zimbabwe on Thursday for talks to try to defuse the situation but came away empty handed, with President Robert Mugabe using a joint press conference to tell his critics to "go hang."

Tutu, who was a tireless anti-apartheid campaigner and headed the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help South Africa come to terms with the past, said all leaders in Africa should condemn the Zimbabwe government.

"What an awful blot on our copy book. Do we really care about human rights, do we care that people of flesh and blood, fellow Africans, are being treated like rubbish, almost worse than they were ever treated by rabid racists?" he asked.

Tutu has often criticized Mugabe in the past. He once described the autocratic leader as "a cartoon figure of an archetypical African dictator."

This prompted Mugabe to label Tutu an "angry, evil and embittered little bishop."

Tutu, who was Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1984. Last year he was named a member of a U.N. advisory panel on genocide prevention.

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