Britain's newspapers said yesterday that Morgan Tsvangirai could not be blamed for pulling out of Zimbabwe's presidential election but urged South Africa to turn on President Robert Mugabe.
National dailies branded Mugabe “tyrannical” in their editorials and raised comparisons with Adolf Hitler as they urged Zimbabwe’s neighbor South Africa to wield its influence and lead world outrage at Mugabe’s regime.
Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, withdrew from the two-man second round run-off on Sunday, saying violence had made a fair vote impossible.
The move all but hands victory to Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.
The Daily Telegraph said it was hard to see what else Tsvangirai could have done.
“His candidature risked bestowing a semblance of legitimacy on the whole wretched business; and in the meantime, it was intensifying the violence,” it said.
The broadsheet said peaceful change in Zimbabwe was largely dependent on South Africa, as it was when the country gained its independence.
The 'Daily Mail'
Nobody could blame Tsvangirai for pulling out, the Daily Mail said.
“This sick farce of a contest was never going to end in a fair result anyway. Indeed, Mr Tsvangirai was almost suicidally brave to fight on for as long as he did,” the tabloid said.
“What makes this tragedy worse is the way this corrupt and murderous tyrant [Mugabe] has been allowed to get away with it,” the editorial said.
The Guardian said Tsvangirai’s decision was a “triumph for terror.”
“Making that call was excruciating because it killed any lingering hope that Mr Mugabe’s tyrannical rule might be ended by the ballot box,” it said.
Southern African leaders have slowly begun turning against Mugabe and he needs electricity and supplies from neighboring states, the editorial read.
“A wind of change blowing through southern Africa might — just — still finish Mr Mugabe,” the paper said.
The Independent said that while nobody could blame Tsvangirai for withdrawing, the decision “still leaves a bitter taste.”
The daily said an opportunity had been lost, but Mugabe would be weakened by the development nonetheless.
The 11th-hour pullout by Zimbabwe’s opposition leader from a presidential run-off complicates efforts to end the deadlock, but a breakthrough is still possible, South African media said yesterday.
The Star newspaper quoted sources close to the mediation efforts in Zimbabwe as saying they were “still hopeful there will be a breakthrough, leading to the formation of a national unity government.”
The 14-nation South African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc has appointed South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate in Zimbabwe.
Mbeki visited Zimbabwe last week and held separate talks with Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai’s withdrawal would “likely deepen Zimbabwe’s political crisis,” but “it may open an opportunity for [SADC] leaders, especially … Mbeki, to salvage a negotiated settlement,” the Business Day newspaper said.
The Times, in an editorial, called for decisive regional action, including kicking Mugabe — an African liberation icon — out of the SADC.
Regional leaders and Mbeki — accused of treating Mugabe with kid gloves — have “failed to act ... even as evidence of the torture, murder and mutilation of opposition campaigners mounted.”
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