sanc·ti·mo·nious Pronunciation: \ˌsaŋ(k)-tə-ˈmō-nē-əs, -nyəs\ Function: adjective Date: 1603
1: hypocritically pious or devout <a sanctimonious moralist> <the king's sanctimonious rebuke — G. B. Shaw>
In case you missed it, South African President Thabo Mbeki stopped by Zimbabwe this past weekend on his way to the emergency summit of southern African leaders, convened to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe. Mr. Mbeki then proceeded to the summit and declared, “There is no crisis in Zimbabwe!” After a long debate, the leaders agreed and went home, meekly calling for the quick release of past due election results.
Then in Nigeria on television, I saw a South African government minister say indignantly and sanctimoniously, “We are not the kind of government who tells another government to step down!” Oh really? I maintain that the current government in South Africa is the kind of government that does tell another government to step down. They did it once; they should do it again.
You may ask when they did what I imply they have done? Mr. Mbeki and all his ANC freedom fighters did indeed stand up one day to an African government in their own land that was oppressive. Yes, the white apartheid government was “duly elected,” but it was a rigged result and did not take into account the wishes of all the people. So Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and many others stood up and called for the removal of that bogus government. They are the kind that can call for a government to step down. When they did so, they did the morally correct thing.
What’s more, the world eventually joined them. It took the world a while to awaken to what was going on in South Africa but, when it did, it increased the pressure on the white government to step down. Businesses and governments boycotted South Africa and refused to do business with them or their people. Planes refused to fly there. Countries refused South Africans the right of entry. Protests and “Free Mandela” rallies were held around the globe. Because those courageous freedom fighters had the courage to call for a government to step down, others found the courage, too.
The amazing thing is that it worked. Not nearly fast enough and not before countless thousands paid with their lives, but the call to end the madness was effective. Nelson Mandela was freed, a fair election was held and there was no civil unrest or the bloodbath that many feared. All this happened because Thabo Mbeki and his comrades were the kind of people to tell a government who needed to step down to step down.
And now they stand by and watch the nation of Zimbabwe disintegrate into nothingness. They refuse to take a stand, preferring what some are calling “quiet diplomacy.” Did quiet diplomacy free South Africa or did a world outcry do the deed? Is the need to stand by a black leader who is corrupt more important than lives that are being wasted as millions try to eke out a daily living? Is 150,000% inflation not a crisis? Is 75% unemployment not a crisis? Does no electricity or food count for anything like a crisis? Isn't flaunting the law a major crisis anywhere it occurs?
So let’s get real about my adopted nation of Zimbabwe. It’s in trouble and has been for quite a while. There is a crisis there right now and anyone who says there isn’t is, well, I’m not sure what they are. But I do know this. When someone forgets where they were and from where they have come, it’s easy to be sanctimonious. What southern Africa needs isn’t moral indignation, but moral courage. I hope they find that somewhere before it’s too late.
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