While at a fundraising dinner in London yesterday, former South African President Nelson Mandela blasted Zimbabwean President for Life Robert Mugabe. Mandela made reference to the "tragic failure of leadership in neighbouring Zimbabwe."
I must admit I am not the hugest fan of Mandela. He has long been an apologist for Palestinian terrorism, has spoken with immense disrespect towards President Bush (unlike dissidents such as Natan Sharansky, Vaclav Havel and the Dalai Lama) and the United States in general. Yet I would be foolish not to recognize Mandela's influence and the weight he carries. When he speaks, people listen.
The one reason Mugabe has remained in power for nearly three decades is because he is considered a hero against European colonialism. The only person in the African continent who can trump Mugabe's accomplishments in this regard is Mandela. Africans also defer to their elders. Mugabe is 84 but Mandela turns 90 next month.
Not that I think Mugabe is going to abruptly resign. The election is proceeding as scheduled tomorrow. But Mandela's remark has made Mugabe lose face amongst Africans. It is something he won't soon forget.