Condoleezza Rice Says ‘South Africa Must Pressure Robert Mugabe to Quit’ (Video)

condi-rice-541.jpgThe US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said today that it was “well past time” for Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe to step down. Rice called on other southern African nations to take the lead on pressuring him to quit.

“It’s well past time for Robert Mugabe to leave,” said Rice, who was in Copenhagen as part of a European farewell tour before George Bush leaves the White House on January 20.
“The fact is there was a sham election, there has been a sham process of power-sharing talks and now we are seeing not only political and economic total devastation… but a humanitarian toll of the cholera epidemic,” she said.
Her comments came as South Africa announced it will send a team of senior government officials to Zimbabwe next week to assess the country’s growing food crisis and determine what aid is needed.
Zimbabwe has declared a national health emergency and appealed for international help as it battles a cholera outbreak that has killed 570 people and infected around 12,700. The move appeared aimed at winning aid from countries and organisations that have been isolating Robert Mugabe’s regime.
Britain joined the EU and other international organisations in immediately pledging assistance. Gordon Brown said the UK was helping because the cholera outbreak showed that Zimbabwe was a failed state with a government unable to protect its citizens from disease.
Kenya’s prime minister, Raila Odinga, said that intervention should mean removing Mugabe from office. “Power-sharing is dead in Zimbabwe and will not work with a dictator who does not really believe in power-sharing. It’s time for African governments to take decisive action to push him out of power.”
The cholera outbreak has been triggered by years of neglect of water systems, resulting in open sewage running through some townships. Nearly half the deaths have been recorded in the capital, Harare. Doctors believe many more in rural areas have not been recorded.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the fatality rate – 4.5% of those contracting cholera – was more than four times greater than it normally is when managed with re-hydration salts and medicines.
The epidemic has spilled over to neighbouring South Africa. Thousands of Zimbabweans are believed to cross the border, often illegally, each day. A cholera centre has been set up in the South African border town of Musina.
The chairman of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, Douglas Gwatidzo, said the state of emergency was overdue: “They should have done that two or three weeks ago when the figures of cholera-related deaths were still low. However, it’s better late than never.”
The European commission has pledged more than $12m (£8m) to contain the outbreak. The International Red Cross and WHO are supplying drugs.
In a statement released by Downing Street, Brown said: “The international community’s differences with Mugabe will not prevent us [helping]. We are increasing our development aid and calling on others to follow suit. For once we agree with the government of Zimbabwe: this is a national emergency.”
The state-run Herald newspaper quoted Zimbabwe’s health minister, David Parirenyatwa, as appealing for help to get the main hospitals working again after staff stopped coming to work because their pay did not cover the cost of transport.
Zimbabwe’s economy continued its collapse under the weight of hyperinflation, which is officially put at 231m%, but is said by economists to be much higher.
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