“It goes without saying”
About twenty years ago an African leader wrote the following words:
As a nation with long-term interests in southern Africa and a fundamental commitment to the promotion of justice and democratic values, the United States cannot stand aside as a human tragedy of potentially immense proportions threatens to unfold in South Africa. The stakes are too high. At risk are the lives of thousands, possibly millions, of South Africans, black and white, the future political and economic viability of the entire southern third of the African continent, and history’s judgment of the United States.
It goes without saying that in South Africa such negotiations cannot take place from prison cells, and therefore political prisoners and detainees must be released and bans on individuals, organizations and political parties lifted, so the representatives of the people can take their places at the bargaining table. The alternatives, in the words of Mr. Botha’s predecessor, the late Mr. John Vorster, more than a decade ago, “are too ghastly to contemplate.” Civil war is already upon us….
Time has run out. Serious choices must be made now. Just as the leaders of the United States over a century ago chose to try to overcome their house divided and use the strength of freedom, equality and human dignity to build a powerful nation, we must make the choices necessary to assist South Africa in shortening this difficult period in its history and getting on the road to prosperity and peace. We must do this, not only in the interest of regional peace and security, but in the interest of global peace and stability, giving due and careful consideration to the future of our small planet.
Nelson Mandela? Archbishop Desmond Tutu?
No, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who now tells the United States, and any other country alarmed by the human-rights abuses committed by and for his government, to go hang. Mugabe’s full article, published in the winter 1987/1988 issue of Foreign Affairs, is available here.