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December 05, 2003As a panel is set up to decide Zimbabwe's fate, Daily Summit has talked to Peter Tatchell, who has twice tried to arrest President Mugabe. First, in London in 1999, then in Brussels in 2001, where he was severely beaten by the dictator's bodyguards, as Belgian secret service agents looked on.
Tatchell was on typically passionate form - accusing Thabo Mbeki of standing aside while South African electricity is used in Zimbabwe torture chambers; describing Mugabe as Ian Smith with a black face; and calling for an armed struggle against the Mugabe regime...
"Suspending Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth is a waste of time," Tatchell told us. "It hasn't caused Mugabe to lose a single night's sleep - let alone done anything to halt his human rights abuses. Since Zimbabwe was suspended, Mugabe's reign of terror has got worse - not better. International pressure has been a total failure."
He describes President Mbeki's 'quiet diplomacy' as an abysmal failure - a policy of collusion with dictatorship. But South Africa could do much more, forcing Mugabe to the negotiating table by cutting off its electricity.
"That kind of threat was instrumental in forcing Ian Smith to negotiate majority rule in the late 1970s," says Tatchell, who campaigned against the white Rhodesian regime. "It worked then. It can work now. It's outrageous to think that South Africa's electricity is being used by Zimbabwean torturers to electrocute political prisoners."
So why has Mugabe remained so popular within Africa? Tatchell believes Mugabe continues to live off his legacy as a liberation hero. "Many Africans are unwilling to now acknowledge that he has turned into Ian Smith with a black face.
"Like Joseph Goebbels, he's a master of propaganda and manipulation, successfully hoodwinking many Africans that he's fighting against colonialism. In fact, he's murdering his own black African people, orchestrating a phoney land reform programme that is mostly redistributing seized white farms to his own government and party cronies."
Peaceful change is no longer an option. "The Zimbabwe Freedom Movement has announced its intention to begin a new war of liberation to restore democracy and human rights. The ZFM doesn't want external help. It is determined that the liberation of Zimbabwe will be achieved by its efforts alone.
"On two occasions, in London in 1999 and Brussels in 2001, I attempted a citizen's arrest of President Mugabe on charges of torture under international human rights law. What's the point of having these laws if the Commonwealth and the rest of the international community refuses to use them?"
Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe itself, a rally of the party faithful has been held. Among the protest signs, a stark - but puzzling - one could be spotted. "Blair the Toilet," it said. Eh?