Bloody hands

I read today that Ratko Mladic, “The Butcher of Bosnia”, has been found guilty of genocide, and sentenced to life in prison. “Mladic was accused of orchestrating a campaign of ethnic cleansing, including the slaughter of thousands of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. It is the worst massacre to have taken place in Europe since the Second World War.” (CNN). 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered in the town of Srebrenica alone. Mass rapes and torture characterized the war.

So many long years after the genocide in the Balkans, we now witness a little justice.

Which brings me now closer to home, to Africa, to our neighbour to the north, Zimbabwe. The dictator Robert Mugabe has fallen from power after forty years of tyranny, and the people welcome – as if he were a messiah – an old ally of Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, responsible for the Gukurahundi massacre of 20 000 Matabele men, women and children in the 1980’s. Called “The Crocodile”, this military leader is known for his brutality and cunning, and yet people now dance with jubilation in the streets, glad to see the back of Mugabe, welcoming The Crocodile in his place.

Another irony: Peter Godwin’s harrowing account of the demise of Zimbabwe was called “When a crocodile eats the sun”. Will this crocodile feast on the people too?

Mladic and Mnangagwa. What have they in common other than the banality of their evil?

It is ironic that as one man goes to prison for his crime of “ethnic cleansing”, another – guilty of the same crime – is hailed as a deliverer.

It is important to note in all this that the government of South Africa has long held Mugabe in high regard, in spite of his kleptocratic, criminal behaviour and ruination of his own country over the decades of misrule and plunder. This should be a source of acute shame for my country, yet our leaders do not view their support of tyrants in this light. Mugabe, Gadaffi, Omar Al-Bashir: we have a rather tawdry record of welcoming criminals as if they were saints. The ANC – which rightly denounced Apartheid – has shamelessly cosied up to regimes just as heinous. It’s a depressing realization.

Too many thoughts crowd in on me now. Meditating on darkness is a futile exercise, one dimly lit room leading to another.


All this duplicity and wickedness will be quickly forgotten as politicians fashion narratives to suit their nefarious agendas.

It is hard not to weep in despair at the state of things.

But thus is the world.

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796